What to Know
- 10 people in masks used bear spray to temporarily maim workers in an NYC jewelry store before swiping nearly $1 million in merchandise and fleeing the scene, authorities say
- Video shows workers and others scrambling into nearby stores as a security worker grabs his face in pain. People walking by on the street were also sprayed, and a street vendor said he had to use milk to flush his eyes
- Mojib Ullah, a manager at a nearby clothing store, says he's been working in the area 13 years and has never seen local crimes of today's magnitude and frequency. He blames the pandemic, and says now, "this area is getting by worse and worse every day. They robbed the corner store, three times. Across the street, robbed last week."
Police are searching for a group of 10 masked individuals they say carried out a sophisticated and coordinated robbery at a jewelry store in the Bronx, using bear spray to temporarily blind workers as they swiped $800,000 in merchandise.
Video (above) shows the panic on East Fordham Road after the employees inside the store near Elm Place struggled to see and breathe, as horrified witnesses rushed to give them water.
The robbery took place just after 7 p.m., as many shops and businesses are getting ready to close. The group pushed their way into the store, which is when detectives said that one flashed a gun while others sprayed. Other members of the group smashed the display cases, stuffing bags with hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of jewels, and leaving glass all over.
The surveillance video showed workers and others scrambling into nearby stores, as a security worker grabbed his face in pain. People who were walking by on the street were also sprayed, and a street vendor said he had to use milk to flush his eyes.
“It was really painful, I couldn’t even see," said Bassir Sow.
The jewelry store was still closed as of Thursday evening. An owner of the store declined to comment.
“People were coughing and covering their eyes because most of the people who got sprayed were inside the store," said witness Nicholas Lassi. "They were messed up pretty bad. Eyes were puffed up seemed like they got sprayed head-on, in the face. It’s crazy.”
NYPD statistics show robberies in the precinct where the robbery occurred are up 5%. Another recent case from Aug. 5 involved another jewelry store on Webster Avenue, Rocco's, in which police said three people used hammers to destroy display cases and got away with more than $2 million in merchandise.
Detectives have not yet said if they believe that incident could be connected to the terrifying bear spray attack.
"I’m working in this place 13 years I’ve never seen it like this. Pandemic made it worse and worse," said Mojib Ullah, a manager at a nearby clothing store. "To be honest with you, this area is getting by worse and worse every day. They robbed the corner store, three times. Across the street, robbed last week."
Police said the group got away via vehicle and motorcycle. Anyone with information is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-577-TIPS.