RIVERSIDE: Mall robbery believed to be active shooter incident

Trevor Montgomery

Riverside County News Source

RIVERSIDE – A smash and grab robbery at a Ben Bridge Jewelry store located inside the Galleria at Tyler, prompted a massive law enforcement response after numerous reports were received that an “Active Shooter” incident was occurring inside the mall. The mall is located in the city of Riverside.

Photo Credit: breakingnews.com from KCBS LA

Photo Credit: breakingnews.com from KCBS LA

The incident began shortly after 6:30 p.m., approximately 30 minutes prior to the malls scheduled closing time. Several callers to 911 reported there were at least three armed men inside the mall. The men were reportedly wearing dark hoodies, ski masks and gloves. Several callers to 911 reported hearing shots fired inside the mall.

One caller from Corona reported to 911 dispatchers he had personally witnessed three heavily armed men enter through an emergency exit, run to the food court area of the mall and open fire on people inside the mall. Multiple other callers reported shots being fired and glass shattering inside the mall.

At about the same time, a call was received from the Ben Bridge Jewelry store indicating they had just been the victim of a smash and grab robbery. The victims at the jewelry store reported three men had come into their store and used hammers to smash into the stores glass display cases so they could steal jewelry before fleeing from the store and out of the mall.

It was unknown if anything was actually taken from the store.

The numerous and conflicting reports brought an overwhelming response from numerous law enforcement agencies from multiple counties.

Photo Credit: KTLA

Photo Credit: KTLA

By 6:45 p.m., multiple teams of law enforcement officers were tactically sweeping through the mall, methodically searching for the reported suspects. Additional law enforcement officers were setting up a perimeter around the mall and assisting with the evacuation of employees and shoppers who were flooding out of the mall through every exit.

Officers inside the mall quickly began to realize many of the reports received from 911 callers were either exaggerated or the facts of the incident had been misunderstood.

However, based on the perceived threat and the possibility of armed suspects within the mall, those employees and shoppers who were unable to immediately evacuate the mall sheltered in place; hiding inside bathrooms, locking themselves inside offices or hiding in corners throughout the mall. Many businesses immediately closed their security gates in an effort to protect their employees and shoppers from potential danger.

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A car reportedly used by the suspects as a get-away vehicle was quickly located on Primrose, East of Harrison, a few blocks from the mall. The car, a Chevrolet Impala, had been reported as stolen from the city of Moreno Valley. A bloodhound was used to try to track the scent of the suspects, who were believed to have gotten into a second vehicle after abandoning the stolen vehicle.

By around 8:00 p.m., the mall had been completely swept and secured and it was determined no shots had been fired inside the location. It was believed some of the initial reports of gun shots had possibly come from the sound of the suspect’s hammers echoing through the mall as they smashed the glass display cases.

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There were at least two medical aid calls from inside the mall during the incident, with one of the calls coming from a pregnant woman who was hiding inside a bathroom near the Forever 21 store inside the mall.

There were no other reported injuries.

abc7

About the initial overwhelming response from surrounding law enforcement agencies, Gordon Spencer in the SKY9 helicopter said from above the incident, “We do understand that at first it was reported to be gunshots from that sledgehammer they used on that case. They thought it was a gunshot situation, but obviously they later determined that was a sledgehammer. I think that’s the response that you’re going to get, especially in this area out here.”

This reported incident follows just four days since last Wednesday’s fatal active shooter incident, that killed 14 and injured 22, at the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino. Today’s response by citizens as well as law enforcement officers show just how frayed nerves continue to be as well as how prepared law enforcement officers are to deal with this type of incident.

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Contact the writer: trevor.rcns@gmail.com

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