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At Nordstrom Rack hostage scene, mall employees try to go to work

LAPD officers stand in front of the Nordstrom Rack store in Westchester, where SWAT officers  rescued 14 people who were hiding in a storage room following an armed robbery. Credit: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times

Near the scene of an overnight hostage situation at the Nordstrom Rack store in Westchester, traffic was picking up Friday morning around the Promenade at Howard Hughes Center mall.

As cars drove by on Sepulveda Boulevard and Center Drive, puzzled mall employees, many of whom were unaware of the hostage situation in which 14 Rack employees were held and later released, gathered at the main entrance to the mall and questioned authorities about what to do.

Jackie Carter, 40, of Redondo Beach, works in technical support in a building on Center Drive. Armed with a thermos of coffee, he said he was supposed to be at work at 6 a.m., but officers told him it was unclear when they would open access to the buildings near the mall.

He said he wasn’t sure what he was going to do because his wife had dropped him off at work.

“I guess there’s no work,” he said.

Meanwhile, Bill Schaeffer of Los Feliz suddenly got a voicemail from his manager around 7:30 a.m. telling him not to come to work at Piccolo’s Books inside the mall.

The message came too late though. Schaeffer had already gotten to work and gone to a nearby coffee shop to pass time. After conferring with officers, Schaeffer, 55, said he was going to go home.

“Now it’s time to run errands,” he said.

One female hostage held at the store was sexually assaulted, another was stabbed in the neck and a third was pistol-whipped, police said Friday.

The ordeal began about 11 p.m. Thursday, when two men took the hostages, leading them into a store room and bathroom, police said.

Police did not say exactly how long the suspects were in the Nordstrom Rack before they fled with an undisclosed amount of money.

Police early Friday were trying to confirm that the getaway car was found at a nearby location.

When the Los Angeles Police Department's SWAT officers arrived Thursday night, they surrounded the store, according to police sources. At one point, one of the suspects left the store, saw police and ran back inside. A second suspect walked out with an unidentified woman, saw police and headed back to the store.

The officers entered the store at 3:30 a.m. and freed 14 people -- employees and possibly customers -- huddled in a storage room. The Promenade at Howard Hughes Center is near the 405 Freeway.

The LAPD had called a tactical alert and closed off the area around the shopping center.

ALSO:

Nordstrom Rack suspects sought after 14 hostages are freed

1 Nordstrom hostage sexually assaulted, 1 stabbed, police say

I-5 at Grapevine closed as cold storm pounds Southern California

-- Matt Stevens at the Promenade mall

Photo: LAPD officers stand in front of the Nordstrom Rack store in Westchester, where SWAT officers  rescued 14 people who were hiding in a storage room following an armed robbery. Credit: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times

 
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L.A. Now is the Los Angeles Times’ breaking news section for Southern California. It is produced by more than 80 reporters and editors in The Times’ Metro section, reporting from the paper’s downtown Los Angeles headquarters as well as bureaus in Costa Mesa, Long Beach, San Diego, San Francisco, Sacramento, Riverside, Ventura and West Los Angeles.
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