About 80 thieves ransack division retailer close to San Francisco

WALNUT CREEK, Calif. (AP) — About 80 people, some with ski masks and crowbars, searched a luxury San Francisco Bay Area department store, attacking employees and stealing merchandise before fleeing in cars waiting outside, police and witnesses said .

Three people were arrested while the majority escaped after the wholesale theft shocked shoppers at the Nordstrom at the Broadway Plaza mall in Walnut Creek on Saturday night, police said in a statement Sunday.

Two staff members were attacked and one hit with pepper spray, while police described it as a “clearly planned event”.

NBC Bay Area reporter Jodi Hernandez tweeted that she saw the thieves rush into the store in the downtown shopping district, about 20 miles northeast of San Francisco.

“About 25 cars just blocked the road and sped into Walnut Creek Nordstrom to get supplies before getting into cars and speeding off,” Hernandez said on Twitter.

Cellphone video from the scene showed masked people streaming out of the store, carrying bags and boxes, jumping into cars and fleeing the scene.

Brett Barrette, the manager of a nearby PF Chang restaurant, began locking the doors of his eatery as he watched the chaos unfold.

“We probably saw 50 to 80 people with ski masks, crowbars and a bunch of guns,” Barrette told ABC 7 News.

The Walnut Creek Police Department said a firearm was recovered from one of the three suspects arrested.

Nordstrom employees began dialing 911 around 9 p.m. when thieves entered the store and began stealing merchandise, police said.

“Walnut Creek Police Department investigators are in the process of reviewing surveillance footage to try to identify other suspects responsible for this brazen act,” the department said in Sunday’s statement.

Nordstrom was open as usual on Sunday.

The incident came a day after a large group of people broke into several high-end stores in San Francisco’s Union Square, smashed windows, stole merchandise and then ran to serviced cars, police said.

Louis Vuitton, Fendi, Yves Saint Laurent, Burberry and Dolce & Gabbana were all targeted on Friday night, Fox 2 News reported.

San Francisco Police Officer Robert Rueca said in a statement released on social media that officers responded to reports of possible looting and vandalism at Union Square shops on Friday night and arrested several people.

Shops in Union Square, a high-end shopping district popular with tourists, have for years been targeted by well-organized thieves, who sometimes ram vehicles into storefronts in order to break through glass doors and windows and enter the buildings after business hours.

In July, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed legislation allowing prosecutors to charge those who collude with others to steal goods.

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