An apparent armed robbery that turned into a hostage situation in which at least 12 employees were being held at a Burlington Coat Factory ended peacefully on Thursday when the suspects surrendered and let the workers walk out.
The incident began at 7:10 a.m. at 3150 Imperial Highway, said Inglewood police Lt. Neal Cochran.
At least one suspect was armed, Cochran said.
A store employee called police, saying three men wearing ski masks were inside the building, Cochran said. The suspects confiscated the employees' cellphones and ordered them to the ground. After about an hour of negotiations with police, the suspects gave up.
By about 8:30 a.m., the suspects apparently communicated with police that they were ready to surrender, but the front doors would not open and the suspects couldn't find the keys.
Police broke out a glass panel in one door about 8:45 a.m., allowing people to leave.
By about 9 a.m., several people -- most of them women -- had come outside, and they were being interviewed. TV images showed at least 11 people coming out of the store, one at a time.
It was an emotional scene for family members of employees.
One mother of an employee said her daughter called from inside the store, saying she had a gun to her head.
"I was so nervous," said Jacquelyn Pratt-Whitlow. "I was thinking she was going to get killed. That's why I had to rush down here to see what's going on."
NBC Wire Services contributed to this story.