Black Friday at a Verizon store in National City turned into a terrifying ordeal for both customers and employees when two masked men wielding guns ordered everyone to the back as they filled up bags with stolen phones.
The armed robbery happened just after 11 a.m. at a Verizon located at 3412 E. Plaza Boulevard, National City Police Department (NCPD) Sgt. Antonio Ybarra confirmed.
Witness Sam Abalos had gone to the store to buy a phone when, suddenly, two men with guns walked in.
“I went to Verizon on Black Friday, just trying to get a phone, and this is not what I expected,” he said. “It was crazy.”
Abalos said the suspects – who were wearing ski masks – were aggressive and told every customer and employee to walk to the store’s back room.
“They said, ‘Everyone to the back!’ and they pointed guns at us,” Abalos recounted.
Once in the back room, Abalos said the suspects told everyone to get on their knees and put their faces on the ground. Abalos said the men didn’t want anyone to look at them.
With all of the witnesses in the back, the suspects began filling up bags with iPhones, according to Abalos. In addition to phones, Abalos said one of the suspects stole a gold chain from the neck of a store employee.
No one was hurt in the robbery but Abalos was understandably shaken.
“You don’t prepare for this moment, you know?” he said.
The suspects fled the store before police arrived.
Ybarra said the investigation is ongoing and, at this point, police aren’t sure if this is an isolated robbery or part of a string of similar incidents.
On Thursday, Ybarra offered a list of tips for shoppers looking to keep themselves, and their new purchases, safe.
One common sense tip: Don't take your money out until asked to do so. Also, park your car in a well-lit area and don’t leave shopping bags inside in plain view.
As for financial security, Sgt. Ybarra recommends taking only one credit card to do your shopping so that you don’t have multiple accounts impacted if a breach were to occur. He also says to save your receipts and monitor your credit card activity closely.
And if you’re shopping with children, choose a meetup location inside a store in case you get separated. It also helps to teach your kids how to identify and approach security or law enforcement personnel to ask for help if they’re lost.