McALLEN — A robbery attempt at a local jewelry store here inside La Plaza Mall ended with seven people in custody, according to McAllen Police Chief Victor Rodriguez.
Initial reports of shots being fired were incorrect and attributed to the sound of smashing glass cases during the incident, according to Rodriguez and Lt. Joel Morales of the McAllen Police Department.
Morales said there were no injuries reported, at least that police are aware of.
Other agencies that responded to the attempted robbery included Homeland Security Investigations and U.S. Border Patrol. Johnny Hernandez, spokesman for the Texas Department of Public Safety, confirmed that DPS units were also in the area.
Hernandez was uncertain of the active shooter reports that were circulating at the time. The Facebook page for Hidalgo County Constable Precinct 4, however, reported via the social media network there being an active shooter at the mall and warned people to “stay away from the area.”
“This was not an active shooter event,” a McAllen PD news release stated about the robbery, which police responded to at about 12:24 p.m. “Breaking glass cases may have been interpreted as shooting. We have no use of firearms at this incident. We have a no shooting event. We have no injuries associated with this incident at this time.”
The release went on to state that the mall is returning to normal operations as the investigation remains ongoing, noting further that formal charges and arraignments against the seven suspects are pending. The identities of the men in custody have not been revealed, nor are there any other suspects known to police at the time.
One person who appeared to be inside La Plaza at the time of the incident posted Snapchat videos to Twitter, showing in one video a man who appears to have his hands restrained lying on the floor inside the mall with officers surrounding him. Another Snapchat video showed more individuals sitting down on a bench inside the mall, again restrained and with authorities surrounding them.
A video being circulated on social media appears to show surveillance footage of the robbery attempt in which armed men in masks storm inside a jewelry store while frightened bystanders look on. Law enforcement officers appeared to respond quickly to the scene and arrived moments later.
Asked for comment on the video, Morales said police could only confirm what was in the news release the department issued shortly after the incident.
Madeline Madden, a 17-year-old model from McAllen, said she was inside Glitz and Glamour, located just across from the mall in the 2100 block of S. 10th Street, when she witnessed people rush out of La Plaza and into the parking lot.
She described one distraught couple, who ran inside the boutique seeking safety, as being frightened.
“The man and his wife came in with their kids and asked if they were going to lock the door, and they told us what happened … that there had been a shooting,” Madden said. “They were trying to get away. The wife was crying and the man looked really nervous … Someone else came and had cuts all over them from falling. We had to lock the doors and wouldn’t let anyone else into the store.”
She said helicopters flew overhead as those inside the boutique continued to witness people fleeing the mall from across the street.
“People were trying to come into the store and everyone was running around,” Madden said.
U.S. Rep. Vicente Gonzalez, D-McAllen, took to Twitter Saturday afternoon to praise the police department’s handling of the case.
“I would like to thank the @CityofMcAllen Police Department and Chief Rodriguez for their rapid response to assess and defuse the situation at @ LaPlazaMall,” Gonzalez tweeted. “No fatalities. No injuries. Because of their work, residents of #TX15 and the #RGV remain safe and secure.”
This is not the first time that a jewelry store inside the mall has been targeted for robbery.
In 2011, several men forced their way into the Deutsch & Deutsch jewelry store and stole Rolex watches and diamond jewelry, which were later recovered, according to Monitor archives.