Santa Ana police are encouraging customers to shop in pairs and stay alert after a teenager at the Westfield Main Place mall was robbed and sexually assaulted Wednesday night.
It happened just before 5:30 p.m. on the second floor of the parking structure on the northwest side of the shopping mall.
The 19-year-old woman had just gotten into her car and had been checking her phone when a man with a weapon forced his way into her car and sexually assaulted her, according to police.
"He forces his way into his vehicle using a weapon and that's when he starts sexually assaulting her," Cpl. Anthony Bertagna, of the Santa Ana Police Department, said.
The woman dropped her phone while trying to call 911 and managed to reach the passenger door and scream for help, police said.
The man grabbed some of the victim's personal belongings before he ran away.
News of the assault had shoppers on Thursday on high alert. Many of them happened to be shopping in pairs, something police are encouraging women shoppers to do.
"We'd like to see women shop in pairs for right now until we get this thing solved," Bertagna said. "When you're walking to your car, don't be texting, talking on your phone from the mall to your car, pay attention to your surroundings."
"It's really unfortunate to see that, especially during the holidays," said shopper Edward Quintero. "Shop with another person — that'd be the best thing to do."
Police said witnesses saw the attack and they've been able to garner good leads. They're also been searching surveillance video, but said, for now, those images will not be released to the public so as not to jeopardize any leads.