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Police search for Nordstrom Rack robbers who took hostages

January 12, 2013 |  9:11 am

Los Angeles police continued to search for armed suspects who took 14 hostages at a Nordstrom Rack store in Westchester this week, brutally assaulting some of them.

Law enforcement sources said detectives were following several promising leads in tracking the suspects.

Several of the hostages -- all store employees -- were hurt in the incident. But their injuries were not life-threatening, and by Friday afternoon the victims had all been treated and released.

The gunmen apparently stormed the store about 10 p.m. Thursday, as it was closing.

Two employees hid in a restroom, authorities said. The gunmen herded the rest into another restroom on the third level, according to dispatch audio posted on the Venice 311 server. There, at least two employees were told to strip.

One woman was dragged to a separate room, where she was sexually assaulted, police said. A second woman was stabbed in the neck, police said, and a third hostage was pistol-whipped.

After officers arrived, a vehicle with tinted windows and its headlights off sped out of the parking garage. The driver wore a black hoodie and the passenger a white T-shirt, according to dispatch recordings.

"White SUV! White SUV! White Ford Explorer!" an officer barked. "High rate of speed leaving the parking lot!"

"Go pursue that vehicle!" another officer said.

They did, to no avail.

"We lost sight of that vehicle," an officer said over the radio. "We're going on the 405 north. I need other units to try Sepulveda. We don't know where vehicle is now."

The suspects had apparently escaped — though officers didn't know that at the time and waited to move into the store. They called in a SWAT team, which arrived about 1 a.m. The mall remained on lockdown — stranding at least 200 moviegoers at the cineplex.

Simeon Campbell, 26, and two of his friends had gone to the 10 p.m. showing of "A Haunted House."

"It was funny until we got out," he said.

Theater employees told them the mall had been closed off but did not explain why. Some moviegoers were escorted to the second floor, where Campbell looked out a window.

"It became real when I saw the SWAT team," he said.

Some moviegoers munched on popcorn that theater employees handed out. Others tried to nap. Campbell paced, his head throbbing and his stomach in knots.

"What if they run in here? What if they have accomplices?" he said he thought.

The wait ended sometime before 3 a.m., when some of the Nordstrom hostages called 911, described their injuries and asked for medical aid, according to dispatch recordings.

-- Rosanna Xia, Matt Stevens and Frank Shyong

Photo: During a four-hour siege beginning late Thursday, at least two robbers held 14 Nordstrom Rack employees hostage, forcing some to strip. Police said they savagely attacked three of the captives. Credit: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times