Fourteen employees held hostage in a Nordstrom Rack store in Westchester were led to safety by LAPD SWAT officers early today, and detectives sought two men who fled following an armed robbery at the business, police said.
One hostage was stabbed and another was sexually assaulted, the Los Angeles Police Department reported. Both were treated at the scene this morning and released.
The robbery of the clothing store at the Promenade at Howard Hughes Center was reported just after 10 p.m. Thursday by a spouse of an employee ofthe store, said Lt. Andy Neiman, a Los Angeles Police Department spokesman.
The employee, a woman, phoned her husband asking him to report to policethat two men armed with handguns had come into the store, which closes at 10p.m., Neiman said. Responding officers saw a man coming out of the store and run backinside when he saw police. A short time later, a man leaving the store with woman spotted officers and forced the woman back into the store, Neiman said. Officers became concerned that there might be additional hostages, and summoned a SWAT team.
Around 3:30 a.m., the SWAT team entered the store and found 14 people in a bathroom and a storage room in the rear of the store, Neiman said. They included 13 women and one man. Hours after the incident began, police also released about 200 people who were stranded inside a cinema at the shopping center while the crisis played out, Neiman said. They had been sheltering in place with police protection, he said.
"As we interviewed and debriefed all of the hostages, we learned that one of the hostages was stabbed," Neiman told Fox11. "That hostage has been treated for a non-life-threatening wound ... and also, sadly, one of the other hostages was sexually assaulted. We're not going to go into any detail on that sexual assault." Neiman said it was unclear at what point during the incident that the sexual assault occurred. "`It's tragic ... that somebody has to go and endure that kind of trauma," Neiman said.
A white SUV with two people inside was seen leaving the shopping center parking lot around the time the robbery was reported, but it was unclear if those inside were involved with the crime, Neiman said.
A vehicle that may have been used by the suspects to flee the shopping center was later located near Washington Boulevard and Globe Avenue in Culver City, police said. Some items possibly related to the store were recovered, Neiman said. At least three SWAT trucks were among numerous police units on hand at the shopping center, a news photographer reported from the scene. The nearby Howard Hughes Parkway offramp from the southbound San Diego (405) Freeway was closed due to the police activity, according to the California Highway Patrol.
The Promenade is an outdoor shopping center with stores, eateries, a miniature golf course and a cinema multiplex. The Nordstrom Rack store, one of more than 100 across the nation serving as a clearance outlet for the upscale department store, is on the second floor of the complex, according to the center's website.
The store remained closed this afternoon.