Victims Stabbed, Sexually Assaulted During Mall Hostage Situation

At least 14 people were escorted from the Nordstrom Rack early Friday by LAPD SWAT members

By Toni Guinyard, Jonathan Lloyd and Beth Slepp-Paz
|  Saturday, Jan 12, 2013  |  Updated 7:15 AM PDT
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Police are still hunting for two gunmen who held more than a dozen employees hostage as they robbed a Nordstrom's store in Westchester. Beverly White reports for the NBC4 News at 11 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 11, 2013.

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Police are still hunting for two gunmen who held more than a dozen employees hostage as they robbed a Nordstrom's store in Westchester. Beverly White reports for the NBC4 News at 11 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 11, 2013.

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Search Continues for Gunmen in Mall Hostage Situation

Police continue to search for the two gunmen that held 14 people hostage in a Nordstrom Rack in Westchester Thursday night. One victim was stabbed, and another was sexually assaulted. The store will remain closed through Monday. Lolita Lopez reports from Westchester for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on Jan. 11, 2013.

Hostages Attacked at Westchester Mall

One victim was stabbed and another was sexually assaulted during the hostage situation late Thursday and early Friday in Westchester. Toni Guinyard reports for the NBC4 News at Noon on Friday Jan. 11, 2013.
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One person was sexually assaulted and another was stabbed in the neck during a hostage situation at a Southern California shopping center that ended early Friday after Los Angeles Police Department SWAT members entered a Nordstrom Rack and escorted at least 14 people from the building.

Gunmen at the Promenade at Howard Hughes Center in Westchester held the hostages in a storage area before the early morning operation, said LAPD spokesman Andy Neiman. The hostages were being interviewed early Friday morning to determine what happened before 11 p.m. Thursday night, when LAPD officers from the Pacific Division received a 911 call from a man who said his girlfriend saw two armed men enter the store.

The store was closed at the time an officer witnessed a man exit the store, then run back inside after he noticed the officer. Authorities said they are investigating whether the assailants might have posed as customers and remained in the store after it closed at 10 p.m.

"That heightened officer's suspicion that something wasn't right," said Neiman.

Officers then saw another man grab a woman and run back inside the store.

"He pulled her back into the store against her will," said Neiman.

At about midnight, officers had surrounded the Nordstrom Rack, which is on the second floor of the Promenade. At about 2 a.m., SWAT members found 13 women and one man -- employees at the store -- in the storage area and restroom.

They were escorted from the building.

The stabbing victim's wound is considered non-life threatening, Neiman said. The victim was treated and released at the scene.

"Tragically, the second victim was a victim of sexual assault," said Neiman.

Officers determined the gunmen were no longer in the store. They were following up on reports of sport utility vehicle seen leaving the area.

Officers and an LAPD mobile command unit were searching a Culver City neighborhood early Friday, but it was not immediately clear whether the search was connected to the hostage situation.

"A white SUV was seen leaving the scene of the crime," said Neiman. "We don't know if that's the same vehicle."

Detectives were looking at surveillance video from the shopping center and interviewing hostages Friday. 

Patrons at a movie theater in the complex told NBC4 they were asked to remain in the theater during the hostage situation.

The southbound lanes of the 405 Freeway, leading to Los Angeles International Airport, were temporarily shutdown at the Howard Hughes Parkway off-ramp. By midnight, the lanes had been reopened though the exit appeared to remain cordoned off.

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