Robbers assault some hostages at Los Angeles store

Associated Press
A Los Angeles police investigators carries evidence bags from a Nordstrom Rack store at Howard Hughes Center near Los Angeles International Airport Friday, Jan. 11, 2013. Robbers stabbed a clothing store employee and sexually assaulted another during an hours-long hostage drama that ended early Friday with a police SWAT team surging into the shop and rescuing 14 workers. No robbers had been found by mid-morning. The ordeal began at about 11 p.m. when a man called 911 and reported that his girlfriend had called and said there were gunmen in the store, Lt. Andy Neiman said. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon)
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LOS ANGELES (AP) — It was another routine night at a Nordstrom's Rack at a Los Angeles mall until two armed robbers stormed inside as the workers prepared to go home.

The men took 14 employees hostage late Thursday, stabbing one and sexually assaulting another before escaping during a three-hour standoff with police.

The store remained closed Friday as investigators looked for the suspects and interviewed the traumatized employees at the store near Los Angeles International Airport.

Police responded about 11 p.m., when a man phoned 911 and reported that his girlfriend had called to say gunmen were in the store, police Lt. Andy Neiman said.

"She told him, 'Call 911. Two guys with guns just came into our store,'" Neiman said.

Police officers and special weapons team members swarmed the outdoor shopping center that also has restaurants and a theater.

The officers saw a man leave the second-floor store, but he ran back inside when they tried to contact him, Neiman said.

Moments later, another man came out with a woman, but when he saw the police he grabbed her and pushed her back inside, Neiman said.

SWAT members surrounded the location but weren't able to talk to anyone inside during the standoff. After three hours, they rushed inside.

"One of the reasons they made entry so quickly is we had reason to believe that there were a number of other employees who had not been heard from that were possibly inside the location," Neiman said.

When officers finally burst into the store, they found most of the hostages— 13 women and one man — locked in a storage room and two others in a bathroom, police said.

One employee suffered a non-life threatening stab wound and was treated and released at the scene, police said. Another had been sexually assaulted.

Other workers complained of minor injuries, likely because they had been manhandled or pushed by the assailants, Neiman said.

Officers searched the store but didn't find the robbers. Police said there were multiple entrances and exits that could have provided an escape.

Police were checking to see if surveillance cameras captured the suspects on video. Investigators also were interviewing the hostages to determine the chain of events.

"When you're talking 14 victims, a sexual assault and a stabbing, it takes a while," Neiman said.

Police didn't say whether anything had been stolen.

Authorities were looking for two men and trying to determine whether a vehicle abandoned in neighboring Culver City was used during the getaway.

Tara Darrow, a Nordstrom's spokeswoman, said the employees were doing their usual work while shutting down the store for the night.

Counseling services will be provided to employees, she said.

"Our priority right now is to take care of our employees," she said.

The mall was expected to reopen Friday, but the store will remain closed, police said.

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