Smash-and-grab looters targeted stores across the country ahead of Thanksgiving and over Black Friday weekend, robbing stores of thousands of dollars in merchandise and even leaving one California security guard dead as he tried to protect a news crew that was reporting on the crimes.
"We tried to stop them," Home Depot employee Luis Romo told FOX 11 of a "flash mob" targeting the store in Lakewood, California, on Black Friday. "We closed the front entrance and they put their sledgehammers up and whoever got in the way, they were going to hurt them."
The group of eight robbers stole hammers, crowbars and other tools, swiping about $400 worth of merchandise. Such tools have been used in other smash-and-grab robberies in the state, including in a Nordstrom in Walnut Creek, California, last week.
The robbers reportedly fled in cars waiting in the parking lot. Police stopped a car with no plates later that night and detained four individuals who may be tied to the robbery.
A group of five suspects stole about $25,000 in expensive purses from a Nordstrom store in the Westfield Topanga mall in Los Angeles on the eve of Thanksgiving. While a large group also entered a Bottega Veneta in the Beverly Grove section of Los Angeles on Friday and used a chemical agent against one person who tried to stop them as they stole high-end merchandise.
By late Friday evening, the Los Angeles Police Department was on a citywide tactical alert. The alert has since been lifted.
In Monterey, a group of about four people stole an estimated $30,000 worth of sunglasses from a Sunglass Hut. In San Francisco, thieves between the ages of 14 and 18 took more than $20,000 from an Apple store in broad daylight on Wednesday.
The crimes have also poured into other areas in the country, including in Chicago where police say thieves threw a cinderblock through a Canada Goose store between midnight and 6 a.m. on Thanksgiving and took merchandise. Three other smash-and-grabs unfolded in the city, where thieves targeted a Foot Locker, a North Face store and a cell phone store.
It is unclear if the robberies are connected or how much merchandise was stolen. Chicago police are investigating.
In suburban Minneapolis, a large group of at least 30 people targeted a Best Buy in Burnsville, while a group of 10-12 people, including juveniles, targeted another Best Buy in Maplewood. No one has been arrested in connection to the incidents as of Saturday and there are no estimates on how much merchandise was stolen.
"Across the board, retailers are getting more concerned with this growing trend. … It is definitely a tough problem to solve, given the organized nature and number of people involved in many of the incidents," Chris Walton, a former Target executive who co-leads retail blog and podcast Omni Talk, said of the incidents, according to Star Tribune.
The most tragic incident unfolded in California, when an Oakland security guard was fatally shot during an armed robbery while protecting a news crew covering a previous smash-and-grab theft.
"It is with the deepest sadness that I let you know security guard Kevin Nishita has passed away," said Mark N... (Read more)
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