A would-be smash-and grab thief got more than he bargained for when he attempted to rob a family-owned jewelry store in El Monte over the weekend.
Surveillance cameras captured the alleged burglar just around 2 p.m. on Sept. 2 as he was walking down Main Street dressed in all black with a face mask and a cardboard box in hand.
Sitting just outside of his family’s store, 70-year-old Arturo was sprayed with bear repellent by the suspect.
“I felt my skin was peeling off from my face, my head, my chest,” he told KTLA in Spanish.
The pain didn’t stop the 70-year-old from running inside his family’s jewelry store to fight back, his brother, niece and nephews all coming to his defense, struggling to restrain the intruder as he smashed the display case and attempted to grab whatever precious merchandise he could get his hands on.
Miguel, a co-owner of Meza’s, can be seen on the video hitting the suspect with a stick, forcing the man, who lost his shirt during the struggle, to run out of the store while employees chased him down the sidewalk.
“The first thing I thought was to protect my family,” Miguel said in Spanish. “He can take the gold, but my instinct was to start to hit him.”
Despite the fact that the suspect ran off empty handed, the family said they are devastated by the violent attack on their livelihood.
“To be honest, I didn’t even think twice,” Israel, a member of the family, said. “I just saw my family struggling with him and I decided to jump in and help them out. We work so hard for this and for someone to just steal it, it’s not cool, you know?”
This attempted smash-and-grab robbery comes on the heels of a string of similar crimes targeting Southland retailers.
Last week, suspects reportedly stole more than $500,000 worth of merchandise from a jewelry store in Pasadena. The owner of the store was also peppered sprayed during the attack.
Rossana, a co-owner of the El Monte jewelry store, said that family-owned businesses like Meza’s are particularly vulnerable to these types of smash-and-grab robberies, and while she’s able to repair the damage done to their store, she says she has lingering concerns.
“It’s very scary,” she told KTLA. “You know, you never know if he’s going to come back. It’s getting pretty dangerous here having a business.”
Detectives said that the suspect seen in the video took off in a gray Dodge Charger and he’s still on the run. Authorities did collect the hammer the suspect used as evidence, but they are asking anyone who might recognize the man to call the El Monte Police Department.