Anthony Hurtado was standing in the back of the jewelry store he’s owned for three years inside the Montclair Place mall at around closing time on Thursday, Aug. 25 when he suddenly heard four loud bangs.
“Sounded like balloons popping. Glass breaking. Almost like gunshots, but gunshots would be louder,” Hurtado said.
When he turned to look, three robbers were smashing into display cases at the front of the store with hammers.
“I hear, ‘bam, bam, bam, bam!’” Hurtado said. “I see these guys are just going to town on that case.
“They were in here for a good two to three minutes,” he said. “People were taking video from outside. There was no security around here, no cops.”
In just a few moments, the thieves took at least several hundred thousand dollars worth of items, Hurtado said. Replacing those display cases will also cost thousands of dollars.
The entire robbery was caught on security camera footage, which also showed at least two of Hurtado’s employees attempting to fight back and call 911. Griselda Martinez, a jeweler at the store, picked up calculators and aerosol cans to pelt the robbers with.
“It just kicked in. I started grabbing everything,” Martinez told KTLA. “I decided, ‘you know what, no, I’m going to fight back.’ “
Hurtado, who was working at the store Sunday, said Montclair police contacted him as they investigated the robbery. He said police told him they’re working with investigators from other cities that may also have been hit by the same crew of robbers.
No suspects had been arrested as of Sunday. A Montclair police spokesman did not return a call for comment on the investigation.
Several jewelry stores in the San Gabriel Valley have been hit with smash and grab robberies so far in 2022. In May, three robbers hit an El Monte jewelry store, taking off with a huge haul, possibly $1 million worth of items. In that case, store employees also fought back, with some throwing chairs and a waste basket.
Four men robbed another jewelry store in the Puente Hills Mall in June.
Employees punched, kicked and used a chair to fight off thieves armed with hammers at a Huntington Beach jewelry store in May. In that case, the would-be robbers ran off empty-handed.
One day after the Montclair heist, a three-person robbery crew hit a West Covina jewelry store.
Hurtado said his store in insured, and that he was talking to his broker to see how much of his loss would be covered. He said he didn’t understand why his store — located further inside the Montclair Mall, away from an easy exit — was targeted.
They’ve been robbed before, but nothing like this.
“People do grab-and-runs — we have very expensive watches. They look at them then run out the door with it,” Hurtado said. “This is the very first instance of physical force we’ve seen.”