As holiday shoppers crowded the Oaks Mall on Wednesday, three gunmen quietly robbed a jewelry store of $25,000 worth of watches and other jewelry, authorities said.
Patrons at the Thousand Oaks mall were oblivious to the 1:55 p.m. armed robbery at Bailey Banks & Biddle, Ventura County Sheriff’s Sgt. Frank O’Hanlon said.
A mall security guard told detectives that he may have seen the trio fleeing through the promenade and out the J. C. Penney store, but he was not certain that they were the robbers and could offer only scant descriptions, O’Hanlon said.
“The more crowded a mall gets, the more you can get away with because people are jostling from store to store taking care of their own business,” O’Hanlon said.
The three men apparently waited until the store was clear of customers before entering with handguns drawn. They ordered one employee to lie on the floor and instructed another to stand aside as a third employee cleared cases of expensive watches and other jewelry that the robbers loaded into a bag, O’Hanlon said.
“Our employees are instructed not to do anything in a robbery other than cooperate totally,” said Al Madrid, an investigator for the chain’s corporate security division. “Fortunately, no one was hurt.”
The incident occurred in less than three minutes. O’Hanlon said no one spotted a getaway vehicle, and a search by sheriff’s deputies, a helicopter and canine units produced no leads as to the robbers’ escape route.