Californians fight back: El Monte jewelry store employees thwart smash-and-grab heist

A hammer-wielding, would-be jewel thief found out the hard way that business owners have had enough with California crime when they sent him fleeing.

(Video: ABC7)

In many places across the country, leftist policies have turned unmitigated shoplifting into a daily occurrence. While major corporations have similarly turned a blind eye to the problem, often penalizing employees for even engaging with suspected thieves, a family-owned jewelry store in El Monte, California had no such qualms.

On Saturday, a man authorities described as a 35- to 45-year-old black man, standing just over six feet tall at approximately 270 to 300 pounds entered Meza’s Jewelry in the Greater Los Angeles Area. According to a report from Eyewitness News, the man was armed with a hammer and pepper spray and he began to smash the display cases in the store as part of a suspected robbery.

However, video captured by a bystander showed that the family that runs the store took up arms of their own and laid into the suspect, thwarting his efforts and sending him struggling for the exit.

Eventually, the suspect managed to open the door to the street. But he was unable to run away until he slipped free of his shirt, and still he was chased down the block.

Speaking with ABC7, the son of the store owner who was himself involved in defending the business expressed, “Me, my uncle and my dad were tugging him out. I was trying to defend my family because, as you could see, he was hitting my dad and my uncle.”

A nearby shop owner spoke to their efforts and the sentiment shared by small businesses fed-up with unchecked criminality. “For us, we’re small business and we’re family owned — the jewelry store that got hit, they’re family owned and the family works there also. So, we fight back.”

The incident in El Monte was far from unique as video from Friday in Scottsdale, Arizona showed as locals reportedly defended the livelihood of a jewelry store there, stopping a fleeing suspect who had absconded with merchandise and holding him down until authorities arrived.

Mark, one of the helpful bystanders outside of Marina Jewelry, spoke with Fox 10 Phoenix and described how he heard someone, “Screaming ‘just catch him! He just robbed the jewelry store!’ So we just grabbed him, held him down, and the police were here within three to four minutes.”

Store owner Anna Marina Solakian said, “They saved my product, saved the neighborhood, and I want to thank everybody that sacrificed themselves to help a neighbor or stranger that they didn’t know.”

Meanwhile, not all such incidents ended in triumph for small businesses as in late August, 60-year-old Yowhannes “John” Tewolde had succumbed to traumatic brain injuries that he had suffered after standing up to a suspected shoplifter allegedly attempting to make off with two beers from the San Francisco market where he worked.

Despite the suspect being seen in surveillance footage, as of Wednesday CBS News indicated no arrests had been made in connection with Tewolde’s death. The same was true of the El Monte suspect who police reported had made off in a gray Dodge Charger days after a similar smash-and-grab had seen a Pasadena jewelry store owner lose $500,000 in merchandise to criminals.


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Kevin Haggerty


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