California gunmen release all hostages

Sunday, July 16th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

ROLLING HILLS ESTATES, Calif. - Gunmen who held six people hostage in a botched jewelry store heist released their three remaining captives unharmed Sunday after releasing three others earlier, authorities said.

The three hostages and the two gunmen exited the shop about 11 a.m., Los Angeles County Sheriff's Sgt. Norine Plett said.

"The situation appears to be over," Sgt. Plett said.

The nearly 17-hour ordeal began about 5:20 Saturday when the gunmen robbed Morgan's Jewelers inside the Peninsula Center strip mall.

Law enforcement officials trapped the men inside after a shop employee alerted authorities by activating a silent alarm. The gunmen then held the six people inside as hostages.

Nearly 75 deputies surrounded the store as negotiators communicated via telephone with the gunmen.

Sheriff's officers said they saw two men with briefcases and weapons exiting the store, but the men returned inside when they saw the officers.

Shopper Bob Dunbar said deputies initially told people in the mall to duck for cover inside shops and then told them to evacuate.

"They yelled 'Get down! Get away!' It was scary," Mr. Dunbar said.

The first hostage, a woman, was released sometime after 3 a.m., nearly 10 hours after the ordeal at Morgan's Jewelers began. A second hostage, a man, was released after 6 a.m.

Another woman was released about three hours later, exiting the store with her hands raised over her head.

It was unclear whether all of the hostages were store employees.

At about 7 a.m. one of the gunman asked for an attorney, authorities said. They called that an encouraging sign that the standoff might end peacefully. It was not clear whether the gunman's request was granted.