A group of thieves wielding box and wire cutters stormed the Nordstrom store at Stanford Shopping Center on Monday night and stole an estimated $111,779 in high-end Gucci handbags, Palo Alto police said.
The group of seven young men and women entered the store at about 8:35 p.m. In full view of customers and staff, the group went directly to the handbag section and cut metal cables at display counters to which the handbags were attached, police Sgt. Wayne Benitez said.
Draping the handbag straps over their arms to maximize their heist, the individuals took less than a minute to finish their thefts before running out the door. The group of alleged thieves entered two cars -- a Honda or Acura with no license plate and what appeared to be a Nissan Sentra -- which were stationed near the exit doors closest to Arboretum Road. The cars were seen driving east on Sand Hill Road toward El Camino Real, Benitez said.
Witnesses previously put the number of thieves at between 10 and 20 individuals before police reviewed surveillance video. The perpetrators were described as three black males and four black females. They tired to conceal their identities and wore multiple colors of clothing, Agent Marianna Villaescusa said in an update on Wednesday evening.
The store tallied 49 purses were stolen. With their more than $111,000 value, that averages at $2,281.20 per purse.
No one was injured, but one store employee thought that a female perpetrator might have punched her as she attempted to take back the handbags when the thief ran toward the door. The box cutters were used as tools and do not appear to have been used as weapons to threaten anyone, Benitez said.
He cautioned that in these situations people should not attempt to stop a theft or to be a hero.
"Criminals are prepared for an encounter, honest people aren't. People who want to be a hero, it's not the best thing. The best thing to do is to be a witness," he said.