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3 suspects arrested in Nordstrom Rack robbery, captive situation

Police say they robbed the store in Westchester, took 14 employees prisoner and sexually assaulted one of them.

January 13, 2013|By Andrew Blankstein, Los Angeles Times
  • Nordstrom Rack store in Westchester where LAPD SWAT officers rescued 14 people who were hiding in a storage room following an armed robbery.
Nordstrom Rack store in Westchester where LAPD SWAT officers rescued 14… (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles…)

Los Angeles police have arrested two men and a woman on suspicion of carrying out a brazen robbery at the Nordstrom Rack in Westchester and holding 14 employees captive last week.

The LAPD released few details Sunday evening other than to confirm they had arrested at least two suspected gang members, including at least one at a Phoenix motel Saturday.

Police would not release the suspects' identities, nor would they detail how they were taken into custody or their alleged roles in the robbery and captive situation. Sources familiar with the investigation said the man arrested in Phoenix appeared to be the principal suspect but would provide no other information.

Sources said police had strong evidence linking the men to the crime, including physical evidence and security camera video. Prosecutors will decide this week whether to file charges.

The incident began around 11 p.m. Thursday at the Promenade at Howard Hughes Center, near the 405 Freeway. The LAPD called a tactical alert and closed off the area around the shopping center.

When the Police Department's SWAT officers arrived, they surrounded the store. At one point, one suspect exited, saw the police and ran back inside.

A second suspect walked out with an unidentified woman, saw police and also headed back inside. The suspects apparently fled in a while SUV, which police said they lost sight of. The officers entered the store at 3:30 a.m. and freed the captives.

At least three of the employees were wounded, including one woman who was sexually assaulted. Another woman was stabbed in the neck and sustained non-life-threatening wounds, and a third employee was pistol-whipped, police said.

It was unclear whether the robbers hid in the store or gained entrance after it closed. It was also not clear precisely how long they remained in the store before fleeing, and police would not say how much cash was stolen.

At least two employees hid in the restroom, LAPD officials said. The rest of the group was herded into a storage room by the robbers, except for one woman who was taken separately and sexually assaulted, police said.

To help identify the suspects, LAPD Robbery-Homicide detectives conducted numerous witness interviews and examined surveillance video from inside and outside the Nordstrom Rack as well as from surrounding businesses.

andrew.blankstein@latimes.com

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