Jewelry store owners fight back against attempted robber
An attempted smash-and-grab at a family-run jewelry store in El Monte didn’t go as planned for the thief this past weekend.
Around 2 p.m. on Sept. 2, security footage showed a man, clad in black and wearing a face mask, strolling down Main Street with a cardboard box.
Arturo, a 70-year-old family member, was outside the store when the perpetrator sprayed him with bear repellent.
“It felt like my skin was burning off my face, head, and chest,” Arturo recounted to KTLA in Spanish.
However, the pain didn’t deter Arturo. He dashed into the store, with his brother, niece, and nephews rallying to his side. Together, they grappled with the intruder, who was trying to shatter the display and snatch any valuable items within reach.
In the store’s video, Miguel, a co-owner of Meza’s, is seen striking the thief with a stick. The assailant, having lost his shirt in the scuffle, fled the store, with staff in pursuit.
“My first thought was to shield my family,” Miguel expressed in Spanish. “He could have the gold, but my gut reaction was to strike him.”
Although the thief left without taking anything, the family was deeply shaken by the aggressive assault on their business.
“To be honest, I acted without hesitation,” said Israel, another family member. “Seeing my family wrestling with him, I had to step in. We’ve put so much into this, and for someone to just snatch it away is just wrong.”
A jewelry store worker seemed to have been pepper-sprayed outside of Meza’s Jewelry on Saturday, Sept. 2, 2023. (Instagram/@SGV) The situation escalated when the staff “confronted the thief,” as per El Monte police, leading to a physical altercation. (Instagram/@SGV)
This incident is part of a recent surge in similar crimes against retailers in the Southland.
Just a week ago, a jewelry store in Pasadena was hit, with thieves making off with merchandise valued over $500,000. The store’s proprietor was also pepper-sprayed during the incident.
Rossana, another co-owner of the El Monte store, voiced her concerns about the vulnerability of family businesses like Meza’s to such crimes. While they can mend the physical damage, the emotional scars remain.
“It’s terrifying,” she shared with KTLA. “There’s always the fear of him returning. Running a business here is becoming increasingly perilous.”
Investigators have shared that the suspect, captured on video, escaped in a gray Dodge Charger and remains at large. The El Monte Police Department has the hammer he used as evidence and urges anyone with information to come forward.”