Mob of nearly 50 people ransack California Nordstrom, use bear spray against guards

Videos of the incident circulating on social media show the brazen looting of the Nordstrom store at the Westfield Topanga Mall

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A mob of up to 50 people swarmed a Nordstrom department store in Southern California and used bear spray on security guards as they made off thousands of dollars in luxury items.

The heist was reported around 4 p.m. at a Nordstrom in the Westfield Topanga Mall in Canoga Park. The thieves used bear spray on two security guards who confronted them, police said.

Bear spray, deployed from pressurized canisters, contains capsaicin and other ingredients that can inflame the eyes and upper respiratory system. An ambulance responded to the mall, but it was not immediately clear whether anyone was taken the hospital.

The thieves took off with $60,000 to $100,000 worth of luxury handbags and high-end clothing, an LAPD spokesman said. Videos of the incident circulating on social media show the thieves, many wearing hoods and masks, ransacking the store as shelves fall and glass breaks. The suspects can be seen scooping up armfuls of items and running for the exit.

A shopper who was inside the store said she saw the robbers storm into the store. Some appeared to target Yves Saint Laurent products.

“Terrible. I've never seen anything like it,” said the shopper named Janie. “This is a disgrace. It is. It's a disgrace.

“I saw three cars pull up, and I saw these guys just running out with all these purses. They just grabbed all the YSL.”

The robbers left the scene in several cars. No arrests have been reported, but the LAPD said it will "exhaust all efforts to bring those responsible into custody."

"Topanga Division officers were on the scene quickly and have several investigative leads," the LAPD said in a statement. "To criminals, it is just property taken. To those who live in the area and patronize the Topanga Mall it is a loss of feeling safe. The LAPD will exhaust all efforts to bring those responsible into custody and seek criminal prosecution.

Shoppers described a mob of 30 to 50 robbers. Macy Jenkins reports for the NBC4 News at 11 p.m. on Sunday Aug. 12, 2023.

In a statement, Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass called the crime unacceptable.

"What happened today at the Nordstrom in the Topanga Mall is absolutely unacceptable," Bass said. "Those who committed these acts and acts like it in neighboring areas must be held accountable. The Los Angeles Police Department will continue to work to not only find those responsible for this incident but to prevent these attacks on retailers from happening in the future.”

In November 2021, a group of robbers targeted the same store. A store employee was pepper-sprayed by a group of about five masked individuals who stole purses and other items. 

The frantic scene Saturday afternoon was similar to another robbery Tuesday that Glendale police described as a flash mob-style heist at a Yves Saint Laurent store at the Americana at Brand. Clothing and other items were take in that robbery before the thieves left in several vehicles. 

The estimated loss was $300,000.

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