By Patricia Santos
(CNN) – The brazen group of 14 suspects who fled an upscale shopping mall during an elaborate smash-and-grab jewelry heist in the Los Angeles area Thursday night left behind critical clues — or so says police.
“We’ve got video of the whole operation,” Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck said. “Those people that escaped — the person who was trying to get out from the front door and got hit by the car — was also wearing some type of vest.”
The chief said the footage shows the suspects releasing a car careening through the security gates of Westfield Century City mall. The blast sent glass and debris flying into the air, CNN affiliate KABC reported.
Police think the group could be tied to as many as 16 thefts in Southern California since January, Beck said.
“This is no small group of individuals,” Beck said. “If you have knowledge of these crimes, information that you can provide to us to help solve these crimes, this is your opportunity to do so.”
The series of thefts occurred at Burbank mall, Century City mall, a Westfield Topanga mall, and Century City Cinemas on March 9, KABC reported.
The only actual heist occurred at Westfield Century City. Seven men wearing ski masks smashed a display case at the H. Stern Collection’s Loft outlet store around 9:30 p.m. Thursday and stole about $3 million worth of jewels. They fled in a car, and no one was injured, Beck said.
After the theft, the suspects fled west, speeding along slick roads in a three-door car, hitting some cars along the way, Beck said.
Police hit the chase’s brakes, trying to prevent more destruction, but the suspects kept on going, driving as fast as 90 mph, police said.
“These suspects should be considered armed and extremely dangerous,” Beck said. “They are believed to be very skilled in concealing their faces and we’re asking for your help in determining their identity.”
Aerial video from KABC shows the suspects running through the lot, briefly stopping, and walking to their car. The car sped away, then drove and slammed into another car, sending it into a fence.
“This investigation is ongoing, we’ve got a very large crime scene,” Beck said. “We’re trying to go through every place where the car was seen to get additional video of this car … to have an evidence footprint in this incident.”