Smash-and-grab prompts panic at SoCal shopping mall

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MONTEBELLO, Calif. -- A group of robbers used hammers to smash open display cases inside a Los Angeles-area mall on Monday, prompting false rumors of an active shooter and a panic, officials said.

The crime unfolded about 5:20 p.m. at The Shops at Montebello, according to local police.

"Approximately four to five male subjects armed with a hammer walked up to a jewelry kiosk and smashed the jewelry cases and took jewelry," Montebello Police Lt. David Kim said in a written statement. "The suspects were armed with hammers and fled prior to officers arrival."

The smashing of the display cases resulted in loud noises, as seen on video shot by a witness. Rumors of an active shooter quickly spread, along with panic. Montebello police were joined in their response by Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies and California Highway Patrol officers.

"Initial reports of an active shooter situation are unfounded and MPD officers, along with LASD and CHP, are in the process of checking the stores for patrons and employees that may have sheltered in place, as a result of preliminary reports of an active shooter," Kim said shortly after 6:30 p.m.

Detailed suspect descriptions were not available.

The mall was closed for the remainder of the day, police said. A reunification center was set up at the neighboring Kaiser Permanente parking lot for anyone who became separated from their group during the panic.

Anyone with information can reach Montebello police at 323-887-1313. Tips may also be submitted anonymously to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.

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