Tampa Police are searching for several suspects who robbed a jewelry store inside of International Plaza.
At approximately 4:01 p.m., police received a 911 call that a robbery occurred in the Rolex display section connected to the Mayors jewelry store.
Deputy Chief Brian Dugan said the suspects used a sledgehammer to smash the glass in the display section. Dugan said the sound of glass breaking may have been mistaken as gunfire.
"During the robbery there was evidence that a sledgehammer, a heavy hammer was used to smash the glass at the jewelry store," Dugan said. "We believe that loud noise that was created from the hammer hitting the glass probably created anxiety and sounded like gunshots from the patrons that had called us."
Cindy Smith said she was shopping upstairs when she heard something that sounded like firecrackers.
"We look down and everyone in the floor below was running for their lives and screaming. It scared us," said Smith. "We just ran into the first store, which was Invicta, started hiding behind the counters and the manager grabbed us and took us to his back store room."
“We heard the guys break in with sledgehammers. It was really loud and then everybody thought it was gunshots and everybody started running and stuff,” said Kevin Salcedo. “We grabbed our cameras. We saw the guys run out of the store by the Champs exit. There were three guys."
The department activated a full active-shooter response. Officers assigned to work the mall during the holiday season along with patrol units arrived at the scene within a minute after the initial 911 call was received, police said.
Members of the FBI, U.S. Marshals Service, Tampa International Airport Police and the Florida Highway Patrol also responded to assist with the investigation.
Officers quickly evacuated the mall and guided the shoppers to safety, while working to secure the robbery scene. The mall was reopened at 5:15 p.m. though some stores opted to
No one was injured.
Police are still searching for three suspects. Police said they fled through the garage and left the scene in a gray Dodge Ram Sport pick-up truck.
The grill on the front of the vehicle matches the color of the truck. The door handles and running boards are chrome. There is also a black soft cover over the bed of the truck.
Detectives are currently working to obtain surveillance video from the store. Anyone who has information is asked to contact Crime Stoppers at 1-800-873-TIPS. Crime Stoppers is offering a reward of up to $3,000 for information that leads to identification and arrest of the suspects.
Police said the department recently partnered with International Plaza to participate in an active-shooter exercise. They said the drill played a valuable role in preparing officers for Tuesday’s response.
There was a man arrested inside the mall but according to police the arrest is not related to the robbery.
Reports from shoppers in International Plaza
@BN9 was in Nordstrom and 100s of people screaming saying run, get out. Made it out safely— Liz Folce (@LizFolce) December 30, 2014
@BN9 it's a shooting in the food court. whole mall on lockdown— Emily Dolgin (@indolgince_) December 30, 2014
@BN9 there's something happening at International Mall. Police on scene and people exiting. Some running out.— Kerri-Lyn (@klabossiere) December 30, 2014