Despite helicopters, K9 units, the SWAT Team and more than 30 officers searching the area, a suspect who tried to rob a Montana Ave. store remains at large.

According to SMPD, officers were called to the store ‘Curated Los Angeles’ at about 5:36 p.m. on Feb. 28. A man had entered the store carrying a “suspicious device” and demanded merchandise from a store employee. The suspect was given some merchandise but began to argue with the employee. The suspect then dropped the items and left the store to a nearby vehicle. The suspect then drove north on 15th Street striking several parked cars along the road. He eventually crashed into a parked car on the 300 block of 15th, exited the car and ran north into the residential area.

SMPD said the car used in the escape was not reported stolen at the time of the crime and officers are working to establish any connection with the registered owner.

While conducting a search of the abandoned car, officers noticed the suspicious device next to the car and notified the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Bomb Squad.

SMPD said a final report on the device will come from the bomb technicians but the initial assessment was concerning enough to warrant detonation. Lieutenant Saul Rodriguez said the device had two small propane canisters, similar to those used in a camping stove, a charging device a timer, cabling, and wires. He said the bomb squad utilized their robot to inspect the device and after surrounding it with sandbags, detonated the device using their equipment.

“They looked at it as definitely a threat,” he said.

Local K9 and SWAT Teams were used in the search but the suspect, described as Hispanic or Caucasian male, 30 years old, 5’9” tall, last seen wearing a black hooded sweatshirt and dark-colored shorts, remains at large.

Rodriguez said SMPD was notified of the incident when witnesses called to report the suspect running down the street. He said by the time officers arrived, the suspect had already fled, crashed and fled again. He said officers never saw the suspect and were relying on witnesses to establish their search perimeter.

While the suspect had not been identified by press time, Rodriguez said the investigation had useful evidence.

“We are working some pretty good leads,” he said. “We’re hopeful, based on evidence and investigation ongoing, to identify and bring the suspect into custody.”

The Feb. 28 robbery was the second of the year on the busy street following a similar incident on January 5 of this year.

In that case, L’Oliphant Jewelry Store, on the same block as Curated, was robbed. The suspected entered the store posing as a customer. They selected two pieces of jewelry (valued at $12,000) and ran from the store. The suspect fled in a waiting vehicle but was later identified as Lexis Monee Willis, a 23-year-old woman from Long Beach.

She was arrested on Feb. 5. And charged with grand theft/ felony theft.

Rodriguez said that despite the proximity of the two stores, the two thefts are unlikely to be connected and the methods of the two suspects were vastly different.

Matthew Hall

Matthew Hall has a Masters Degree in International Journalism from City University in London and has been Editor-in-Chief of SMDP since 2014. Prior to working at SMDP he managed a chain of weekly papers...