Security cameras caught two thieves using hammers to break open a jewelry display case in the middle of Plaza Bonita Mall before they filled bags with valuables. They would have gotten away with more if it weren't for the kiosk owner, who took a swing at one of the robbers with her stool.
"They went right for our most expensive section, which is the chains. They took all our chains," Catherine Kim of Code One Jewelry said.
Kim's family has owned the jewelry hub for six years.
"My mom, she’s been in this business for a very long time. Some things like this have happened before, but in the past it has never been successful," Kim said.
On Tuesday, Code One's luck changed. Twenty seconds was all the hooded and masked smash-and-grabbers needed to make off with some of the Kim family's product.
"There was some jewelry that did fall out of the bags and there were some nice people who picked up whatever that was dropped and brought it back to us," Kim said.
The thieves weren't caught on their way out and police are having a tough time coming up with descriptions of what they looked like, but Kim hopes her mother's best swing at the robbers with her stool is enough to keep them from coming back.
"Afterwards, she was just kind of shaken up," Kim said about her mother. "She wasn’t making any sense talking.”
The sounds of the shattering glass were so loud that people in the mall thought they were gunshots. Calls reporting an active shooter in the mall drew Chula Vista Police Department's entire force to the property, according to Sgt. Ken Springer.
One of the suspects was described as 5 feet 5 inches tall with a skinny build. He wore a red jacket with a NASA logo and white lettering on the sleeves and back, and blue jeans. The second suspect was described as having a similar build to his partner, and he wore a black hoodie with white lettering on the front and blue jeans, Sgt. Springer said.
Larger-scale smash-and-grab robberies have made the news across the state, like one in San Francisco's Union Square that saw dozens of people run off with products from a high-end clothing store.
Since that rival mob robbery and others that followed across California, Governor Gavin Newsom has called on police to increase their presence near retail areas and re-established the state's Retail Theft Task Force.
Kim said her family was well aware of the trend.
"We’ve been keeping a close eye on it and, honestly, I have been holding back thinking like, OK, it’s bound to happen to us, too," she said.
On Tuesday, California Attorney General Rob Bonta met with big-box retailers, online marketplaces and law enforcement to talk about the recent string of robberies. They're trying to come up with some strategies to stop them.