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Culprit Sought After Flooding Stores at Mall

Nine businesses in the Shops at Mission Viejo are damaged, the loss put at $100,000-plus.

June 01, 2005|Mai Tran | Times Staff Writer

Authorities are searching for the male who opened a water valve early Tuesday, sending some 20,000 gallons gushing through the Shops at Mission Viejo and flooding nine stores.

No one was injured in the deluge, which caused more than $100,000 in damage to the mall, at 27000 Crown Valley Parkway, officials said.

The second-floor flooding first damaged Pottery Barn Kids and FYE Music on that floor, then, on the floor below, damaged Ritz Camera, Toy Professor, Motherhood Maternity, Lane Bryant, Babystyle, Vans shoes and a Thomas Kinkade art gallery, said Jim Amormino, spokesman for the Orange County Sheriff's Department. The flooded stores were closed for cleanup and expected to reopen today.

The culprit may be a disgruntled mall employee, officials said. The mall's surveillance cameras caught the fleeing male, who was wearing dark clothes and carrying a backpack.

"It had to be someone who knows how to turn a water valve on, someone who was familiar with the operations here," Amormino said.

The incident began about 4:30 a.m., when the valve was opened, triggering an alarm to the Orange County Fire Authority.

When fire officials arrived, they determined that the water had been running for about 10 minutes, releasing about 2,000 gallons per minute, officials said.

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