PASADENA (CNS) - A group of thieves made off with more than a half- million dollars of merchandise and pepper-sprayed the owner of a Pasadena jewelry store in the latest smash-and-grab robbery to hit a Southland retailer.
The crime occurred at about 1:45 p.m. Tuesday at Jewels on Lake at 415 S. Lake Ave., Pasadena Police Lt. Monica Cuellar told City News Service.
"The owner was escorting a client outside the store when a group of three males forced their way into the store, proceeded to smash jewelry display cases with hammers and fled the store with more than $500,000 worth of jewelry," she said.
"There was possibly a fourth suspect who was the driver of the getaway car," Cuellar said. "The suspect vehicle is described as a dark colored sedan. We are collaborating with other agencies to find information on similar incidents."
Cuellar urged anyone with information on the crime to call police at 626-744-4241, or Crime Stoppers at 800-222-TIPS. Anonymous tipsters may also use the website http://lacrimestoppers.org.
The shop's owner, Sam Babikian, told KTLA5 what happened.
"As soon as I opened the door, I got pepper sprayed right in my eye, my throat, my mouth," Babikian said. "I couldn't see anything. Then (all) I could hear was smashing and grabbing."
Babikian made his way to a hidden panic button inside the shop, successfully contacting the police. The one thought running through his mind, he recalled, was: "I hope nobody pulls a pistol and shoots around."
Within minutes, he estimated that around $650,000 to $750,000 in jewelry was lost during the break-in, although he has not yet taken full inventory to confirm that number, KTLA5 reported.
"Most of my merchandise is gone," he said. "Most of the showcases are empty. This one hurts. I'm very grateful they did not harm me, they did not fight. Thank god that nothing happened to me and I'm still alive."
Police said that because the store operates on a door buzzer system, the moment Babikian was escorting a guest out was the perfect time for the thieves to overtake him.
Babikian has been in the jewelry business for 50 years and joined the Pasadena community in 2005. He said this is the first time he's been robbed since he started his business.