SOUTHWEST MIAMI-DADE, Fla. (WSVN) — It was time for panic for shoppers at Dadeland Mall, Sunday evening, but not a single shot was fired. Instead, what got patrons agitated started with a crafty crook, a pricey watch and some noisy firecrackers.
According to Miami-Dade Police, a thief set off firecrackers at a jewelry store inside the shopping center, located at 7535 N Kendall Drive in Southwest Miami-Dade, in order to create a diversion so he could steal the high-priced timepiece.
Investigators said the subject went inside Mayors Jewelers and asked to look at an expensive watch. Just after 6:30 p.m., police said, the thief threw firecrackers as a distraction and ran out with the merchandise.
The incident triggered panic among shoppers, resulting in a social media flurry of tweets, photos and videos. Some tweets refer to fireworks being set off inside the mall.
An Instagram user posted a video showing a few dozen shoppers standing outside the shopping center with the caption, “So i was at Dadeland Mall waiting for john and the (sic) heard a POP and everyone starts running and I ran 2…no idea.”
If the incident sounds familiar, that’s because a similar distraction theft took place at the Sawgrass Mills Mall in Sunrise, Dec. 31.
Surveillance cameras captured the subject asking an employee at the Zales store to look at a Rolex watch.
“The subject makes conversation with the employee as if he’s going to buy the watch,” Sunrise Police Officer Luis Fernandez told 7News a few days after the theft. “As this is going on, you can tell that the employee is getting more comfortable with the suspect.”
Fernandez said this thief did not act alone. “It was a combined effort to set up a distraction, and you could almost see it in the video when he’s on his phone, and as that communication goes off, the fireworks are set, and he’s out of the store,” he said.
Just over a week ago, a fight sparked panic at a packed Dolphin Mall in Sweetwater. Police officers from several agencies responded to the scene as if they would to an active shooter situation.
But investigators said not a single shot went off, and there were no reports of any guns.
“It was like a sight out of a movie, basically,” said Dolphin Mall shopper Carlos Garcia. “It was unbelievable.”
Police took a man into custody in connection to the fight.
Regarding Sunday’s theft, Dadeland Mall officials issued a statement that reads in part, “A firework was set off in the mall. The area is secure and we will open for business as usual Monday.”
The mall closed at 7 p.m. as scheduled.
If you have any information on this theft, call Miami-Dade Crime Stoppers at 305-471-TIPS. Remember, you can always remain anonymous, and you may be eligible for a $1,000 reward.
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