FULLERTON (CNS) - Two of five men who robbed a Moreno Valley jewelry store, where a clerk was shot and wounded, remained at large today after using the Cal State Fullerton campus to escape at the end of a three-county pursuit involving five law-enforcement agencies, authorities said.
The holdup occurred about 3 p.m. Wednesday at the Empire Jewelry and Pawn Shop in the 24500 block of Sunnymead Boulevard, just south of the Moreno Valley (60) Freeway, according to the Riverside County Sheriff's Department.
Witnesses told Riverside sheriff's deputies that five men in ski masks and armed with .22- and .25-caliber handguns forced their way into the shop, robbed it and shot a clerk. The wounded man was rushed to Riverside County Regional Medical Center and was in stable condition, the Sheriff's Department reported.
Within 15 minutes of the robbery, the California Highway Patrol began pursuing the getaway vehicle, a charcoal-colored two door Lexus, as it headed west on the Moreno Valley Freeway. The chase reached speeds of 100 miles per hour through San Bernardino County and into Los Angeles County, according to the CHP.
The robbers transitioned from the Moreno Valley Freeway to the southbound Orange (57) Freeway in Diamond Bar and made their way to Fullerton, where the car chase ended on Nutwood Avenue near Mihaylo Hall at the Cal State Fullerton campus, police said.
Two suspects were taken into custody on or near the campus, but one is believed to have entered Mihaylo Hall and another, to have run south from the campus, Fullerton police Sgt. Jeff Stuart said.
A fifth suspect carjacked a motorist near the campus, stealing his compact and triggering a high-speed 20-minute chase that went west on the Artesia (91) Freeway at high speed. The carjacker exited the freeway in Compton, authorities said.
The suspect plowed through multiple intersections, with police, CHP and sheriff's units close behind. What happened after that seemed to fall under the rubric: You couldn't make up this stuff.
Clad in a white T-shirt and dark pants, the carjacker drove into the parking lot of the Imperial Courts Recreation Center near Alameda Street in Watts, bailed out and ran onto a baseball diamond, where Los Angeles police officers tackled him to the ground and arrested him.
As it turned out, the man had picked a bad spot as his portal to freedom; Los Angeles police Chief Charlie Beck and other members of his department were at the complex at the time, distributing gifts to children as part of a toy drive.
"He was an unlucky crook to pick that field," Cmdr. Andrew Smith, an LAPD spokesman who was at the park, told the Los Angeles Times. "He had sheriff's on one side and police on the other with nowhere to go."
At Cal State Fullerton, meanwhile, an estimated 10,000 people, mostly students, were stranded on the campus for more than seven hours Tuesday, hundreds of them in the rain, as Orange County sheriff's and North County SWAT teams, whose members are drawn from several departments, searched for two of the suspects, said Stuart.
Witnesses told reporters they had seen a suspect run frantically toward Mihaylo Hall, then walk calmly inside, mixing with the crowd. Not finding the suspect, police cleared Mihaylo Hall around 10 p.m., allowing approximately 400 students who had been inside to leave, according to Stuart.
The other suspect evaded a building-by-building search, Stuart said.
Finally, around midnight, police announced via Twitter that those remaining on campus were free to leave.