A man and woman were loading groceries into their car after shopping at 99 Ranch Market in Rowland Heights on Saturday when two strangers approached.
The woman screamed as the strangers pistol-whipped her before fleeing in the man’s $60,000 Rolex.
Video of the attack and its aftermath, capturing the horror of the woman and the couple in the parking lot as she tried to stop the bleeding from her companion’s head, quickly spread through the local Chinese community.
The robbery of expensive watches, which are ripped from the wrists of victims while they are eating, walking or shopping, has become a trend in Los Angeles.
But few thought it would happen on a quiet afternoon in this affluent, mostly Asian part of the eastern San Gabriel Valley.
For a community already reeling from anti-Asian hate attacks and a shooting at a Taiwanese church in Orange County, the brazen crime has further eroded a fragile sense of security.
On Monday morning in the Ranch 99 plaza, a worker washed blood from the spot in the parking lot where the attack took place.
Early risers stocked up on Asian staples at the popular convenience store in a square of Korean, Vietnamese, Thai, North China and Cantonese restaurants.
Yu Lee, who shops for fresh fish and produce at 99 Ranch twice a week with her husband, said she is “very nervous” about crime.
“It’s happening more and more. When I go out, I wear normal clothes,” said Lee, a Hong Kong immigrant. “The good stuff, whatever I have and want to keep, is at home.”
For much of the weekend, video of the attack lit up WeChat, a social networking service used by many Chinese Americans.
“It was so, so scary,” said Connie Jiang, who was born in Beijing, sharing how she felt after watching the video.
Jiang, who was stationed at the reception desk of a communications services store on the square Monday morning, was not at work when the attack took place. But as I watched the footage, “the sounds of screaming got so close to me,” she said.
As she exits the store, she tries to leave with a co-worker and considers taking pepper spray with her.
In the area patrolled by the Walnut/Diamond Bar Sheriff’s Station, which includes Rowland Heights, robberies fell in the first five months of the year compared to the same period in 2021, while burglaries increased.
Captain Steven Tousey, who runs the station, called Saturday’s armed robbery “a crime of convenience.”
Investigators believe the suspects, described as two men aged 25 to 30 wearing black hoodies and gray sweatpants and armed with handguns, were not from the Rowland Heights area. The couple fled in a white Dodge Challenger, Tousey said.
The victims – a man in his 60s and a woman in her 50s – suffered minor injuries and were not taken to the hospital, according to Tousey.
“If you live in an upscale area, people know they can potentially find nice things there,” he said. “That’s why people go there.”
Before the pandemic, Tousey said, there was a spate of pickpocketing in Asian business centers as shoppers unloaded their purchases.
“They put their purse on the passenger seat, someone pulled up next to their car, grabbed it and ran — but nothing like that robbery,” he said.
John Hsu, president of the Together Against Crime Foundation, said he told the plaza owner and company 99 Ranch Market to step up security ahead of Saturday’s attack.
99 Ranch Market officials did not respond to a request for comment.
Hsu founded his Rowland Heights-based nonprofit last year to advocate for public safety in the Asian American community. He said the group is urging people to write to the LA County Board of Supervisors and the Sheriff’s Department calling for stronger law enforcement in Rowland Heights. He noted an increase in residents’ interest in public safety issues after Saturday.
“It’s a wake-up call,” he said. “If we don’t do something, it will only get worse and affect your home prices and your children [and] your future.”
Shoppers in the square Monday morning had many questions. Why didn’t anyone step in? Why wasn’t there a security presence outside the store? Some also wondered why anyone would wear such an expensive watch to shop for groceries.
“You just go to the store. It’s not party time. You don’t need fancy shoes or expensive pants,” said buyer Simon Yang.
Yang, who was born in Taiwan, believes many of his fellow migrants are obsessed with status symbols and “showing off.” As he rolled his wagon filled with freshly baked sesame pancakes and dried noodle bowls to an exit of the 99 Ranch, Yang pointed to his own faded jeans, a plaid shirt over them.
“Take it easy,” he urged. “Nobody needs a watch now. We all use our iPhone.”
But James Wang, a Taiwanese-American attorney whose photos hang from billboards in the San Gabriel Valley, asked if anyone expected to be robbed in a busy parking lot at 12:30 p.m. on a Saturday.
“It’s easy to blame someone for being conspicuous,” he said. “But even in very affluent neighborhoods, do we just not get on with our lives and enjoy the fruits of our labor?”
https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2022-07-12/brazen-robbery-of-60-000-rolex-in-99-ranch-parking-lot-shocks-asian-americans Robbery of $60,000 Rolex at 99 Ranch shocks Asian Americans