Calif. Nordstrom hostages held hours; 1 sexually assaulted, 1 stabbed

January 11, 2013 9:49:25 AM PST
Fourteen people were released after being held hostage inside a Nordstrom Rack store in Westchester all night during an armed robbery. The search is still on for at least two suspects.

The situation started shortly after the store closed at 10 p.m. Thursday when a husband or boyfriend of an employee called police to say there was an armed robbery. When officers arrived at the Promenade at Howard Hughes Center, they saw a man who was acting strangely run into the Nordstrom Rack. They then saw another suspicious man grab a woman and take her into the store.

SWAT officers surrounded the shopping center and closed off the area. After a couple of hours, they forced their way into the Nordstrom Rack and found a group of hostages, 13 women and 1 man, huddled together and frightened. They were all employees.

"The majority of them were in one location, a storage room in one part of the store," said Lt. Andy Neiman with the Los Angeles Police Department.

Police confirmed that one female hostage was sexually assaulted. She was transported to a local hospital. One other person who was stabbed was treated and released at the scene. There were reports that a third person was pistol-whipped, but authorities could not confirm that.

The robbery suspects are still at large. The hostages told police the suspects carried weapons. It is unclear what was stolen from the store.

Culver City police said early Friday morning they located the suspect vehicle, a white SUV, and turned it over to the LAPD. It was located at Washington Place and Globe Avenue, but no one was inside. A white SUV was seen leaving the mall hastily earlier.

The Rave Cinemas 18 + IMAX at the Promenade at Howard Hughes Center was on lockdown during the hostage situation at Nordstrom Rack. Moviegoers were stuck inside the theater for more than six hours. They were offered the chance to watch free movies. Many said the real-life story unfolding outside was much more terrifying than anything on the big screen.

"It was just like shocking, because you come out and they're like, 'Uh, you can't leave to your cars because if you go outside, there's a possibility you're going to get shot because they have high-powered rifles at Nordstroms,'" said moviegoer Logan Kelly.