A pair of robbers fled from a Westminster jewelry store after an employee opened fire Thursday, in the third such shooting at the store within about two years.
The incident began when two men started smashing cases at Tick Tock Watches at the Asian Garden Mall (map) just before 12:30 p.m., according to Cmdr. Bill Collins of the Westminster Police Department.
An employee -- or possibly the store's owner -- then pulled out a gun and fired several shots at the men, according to Collins.
It was unclear if the men, who escaped, had been hit by the gunfire, Collins said. Police on scene could not confirm who fired the shots, or if the robbers also fired.
The robbers entered the store with a handgun and hammer and then smashed display cases and grabbed merchandise, Officer Rachel Archambault said on scene.
They fled as the victim engaged them and got away in a waiting dark van in the parking lot, she said. The van was dumped nearby and the robbers entered another vehicle and fled, according to police.
Witness Andy Ngo said he saw two men run into the mall after being dropped off by a third man in a vehicle in the parking lot. The two men donned face masks and beanies before running into the mall, Ngo said.
"Twenty seconds later, I heard like two shots fired," Ngo said, likening the scene to a movie.
Police said it was "possible" there was blood evidence left at the store.
The jewelry store, which is in the Orange County city's Little Saigon area, was also the scene of shootings in 2012 and 2013.
In September 2013, a robber ran from the store while trying on an expensive watch. The store owner pursued the man and shot at him as he was trying to leave in a vehicle. The robber got away unharmed.
In July 2012, a suspected robber was shot in the head when the same shop owner opened fire during an attempted hold up of the store. One of two men who tried to rob the store in that incident had posed as a disabled wheelchair-user.
Police called the owner's actions in 2012 a "very courageous measure."