A group of four broke into a jewelry store at a Los Angeles area mall on Tuesday expecting to carry out a smash-and-grab heist. What they were not expecting was the group of Marine recruiters nearby that leapt into action to stop them.
The four thieves broke into the Daniel’s Jewelers at Del Amo Fashion Center in Torrance, California at around 7:30 p.m. Tuesday. At the same time, at the neighboring Armed Forces Career Center, Marine Staff Sgt. Josue Fragoso was meeting with an applicant hoping to join the service.
When Fragoso and the applicant heard the sound of shattering glass, they went to find the source of the commotion.
“You can hear when it shatters, and I kept hearing it happen,” Fragoso said in a Marine Corps news article.
“I had this feeling it might be Daniel’s Jewelers getting robbed because they have gotten robbed before,” said Fragoso. “I ran out of the office and went over there.”
Fragoso told NBC Los Angeles he then saw the four suspects going through the store and stealing merchandise.
“One of them had a hammer and he was coming out,” Fragoso said.
That’s when Fragoso and 33-year-old applicant Scott Elliott jumped in to stop the heist. According to Marine Corps Times, Marine Sgt. Andre Henry also joined the effort.
Fragoso tackled one of the suspects while Elliott pinned a second suspect to a rail just outside the mall.
Elliott told Marine Corps Times he relied on his martial arts background to take his suspect to the ground.
Henry attempted to stop a third suspect but that individual got away. The Marine instead regrouped to help Fragoso and Elliott restrain the two individuals they had caught. A few bystanders also reportedly joined to help in the effort and together they held the two suspects until officers from the Torrance Police Department arrived about five minutes later.
The Torrance Police tweeted a photo of the Marines and bystanders giving a statement while the two suspects sat handcuffed.
“Officers responded to masked suspects with hammers & gloves stealing from a jewelry store within the mall,” Torrance Police tweeted. “The suspects fled but nearby military personnel & by-standers held 2 suspects until TPD arrived. Great work to all involved & shout-out to @USMC Recruitment #SouthBay!”
Henry told Marine Corps Times that the Marines were able collect 15 to 20 pieces of jewelry and returned them to the store.
At 33, Elliott is working to obtain an age waiver to join the Marines. If that waiver application goes through, he will be cleared to join the service.
On Thursday, Torrance Mayor George Chen presented Fragoso with a certificate of recognition for his actions to help stop the jewelry store heist.