LOS ANGELES (AP) — Students at Cal State Fullerton who barricaded themselves inside classrooms and dorm rooms Wednesday afternoon prepared to stay put into the night as police searched for two suspects in a jewelry store robbery, while another suspect was caught after a high-speed pursuit that spanned three counties and ended on a baseball field where Los Angeles’ police chief was giving away toys.
The search was centered on three buildings along Nutwood Avenue on the southeast edge of the campus, said Chris Bugbee, the school’s director of public relations. Students were alerted via text message at about 4 p.m. and told to stay where they were with doors locked.
Police believe at least one suspect fled into Mihaylo Hall at the university’s College of Business, where some occupants were evacuated.
“We saw all these cops coming through with — I think they were like AKs or something. They were pretty big guns. And they eventually told us we had to leave the campus,” student Nate Chu told KABC-TV.
SWAT officers were clearing Mihaylo Hall room by room, which was expected to take several hours.
At least one person fired a handgun while attempting to rob the combination pawn shop and jewelry store in Moreno Valley just after 3 p.m., according to Riverside County sheriff’s Cpl. Angel Ramos. One person was shot, and the victim’s condition was unknown.
Five suspects fled the robbery in a gray Lexus and were stopped by police in Fullerton when the Lexus rear-ended a vehicle near the school. Two people were detained soon after the crash. Three others ran off.
“They ran right at me, I decided to get out of their way, I did not know if they were armed or not,” said student Shaun Kintaudi, who was on his way to take a test. “I decided it was best to run away from them and let the cops do their job.”
The suspects were considered armed and dangerous, said Fullerton police spokesman Jeff Stuart.
All students were safe, school officials said. Some students posted photos to Twitter and Facebook of their locked-down classrooms and dorm rooms with doors barricaded as they waited inside, watching the news on their laptops.
“We’ve made a makeshift bathroom out of trash cans, and whatever happens here stays here, that’s the rule,” Robert Pachorek, a student holed up in a classroom in Langsdorf Hall, told KABC-TV.
Two student news anchors stuck in their campus television studio were posting video reports at the school newspaper’s website as they got updates via text messages.
They said they had been rehearsing for just such an event.
“About a week ago we were doing live shots, and now we are actually doing live shots with a tragic situation,” journalism major Cara Seo said in a video.
All evening classes and activities were canceled Wednesday. The campus is in its final week of classes before final exams.
One of the suspects who fled after the crash near campus carjacked a silver sedan and drove onto westbound state Route 91, speeding erratically through rush hour traffic until exiting onto surface streets nearly 30 miles away in Los Angeles County. The victim of the carjacking was not hurt, Stuart said.
The suspect crashed the car, sprinted through a lawn and hopped a fence near a housing project in Watts. He surrendered to dozens of officers on a baseball diamond at a recreation center where Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck was giving away toys to hundreds of young children.
“He picked the wrong rec center to run into today,” said LAPD Cmdr. Andy Smith.