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Armed robbers can’t get out of store as doors wouldn’t open, surrender to police

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POSTED June 14, 2012 10:23 p.m.

INGLEWOOD  (AP) — Police on Thursday detained three men after a bungled robbery at a Southern California clothing store where both the suspected robbers and at least eight employees had trouble getting out of the building.

Three men entered the Burlington Coat Factory building about 7:30 a.m. and at least one was armed, police said. The store hadn't opened yet and when police arrived they saw the suspects trying to flee.

"We showed up instantly, and they were trying to get out but they had no place to run," police Lt. Neal Cochran said.

Police thought they might have a hostage situation, but they managed to make contact with one of the employees who said there was trouble finding a door key to let everyone out, Cochran said.

Police also spoke with at least one of the robbers, and it was clear what their intentions were.

"They told us they wanted to surrender," Cochran said.

SWAT officers had to break the glass of the store's front door to allow people to get out. TV images showed at least 11 people coming out of the store, one at a time. Police said three of those people were believed to be the suspects.

No one was injured and no weapons had been found as police were combing the store as a precaution. Police couldn't immediately say what the motives of the suspected robbers were.

Businesses on both sides of the store were evacuated and streets around the store were closed.

Jacquelyn Pratt-Whitlow got a call from her daughter during the standoff, who said she was bringing merchandise onto the floor from storerooms when the gunmen came into the store.

"She said she was held in there and had a gun in her face. They took their cellphones away but later gave them back because they were thinking about surrendering," Pratt-Whitlow said.


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