HAWTHORNE, Calif. (KABC) --A hair shop in Hawthorne was robbed at gunpoint Tuesday, and the suspects took off with hair extensions valued at $20,000.
The robbery was caught on surveillance tape and captured one of the suspects, an armed man wearing saggy pants, duct-taping the clerk while three other suspects stole human hair extensions and cash from Baby Doll Human Hair.
Investigators say the crooks were after human hair extensions, an untraceable commodity they can sell to salons or trade on street corners. Each piece is reportedly worth from $70 to $200.
The owner, who did not want to be identified, described what the gunman did to her employee.
"He told her initially to duct-tape her mouth shut, and then he proceeded to just continue with the process," she said. "He duct-taped her mouth, he duct-taped her eyes, he bound her arms and her feet."
Co-workers were left shaken following the robbery.
"As far as my own safety, I am actually traumatized," an employee at Baby Doll Human Hair told Eyewitness News.
The entire inventory, valued at as much as $20,000, was wiped out at the hair store located on the 3300 block of Rosecrans Avenue.
Investigators say the violent nature of the crime is what is most alarming. The store is secured like a jewelry store, equipped with cameras. Its doors are locked and customers have to be buzzed in. Typically, men are not allowed, but the male suspect came in with a young woman who wore braided extensions.
Investigators with the Hawthorne Police Department say this was not a casual robbery.
"The main thing is they had a plan, they went in, they came prepared, they came with the duct-tape, so they could tie the victim up and they were prepared to take the merchandise and flee and were trying to be aware of the cameras and not to show their identity," Hawthorne police Lt. Amy Yoshida said.
Merchants say the hair comes from India, where women give their tresses at temples as an offering.
A crime trend of stealing weaves is sweeping the country, with similar reports in Chicago, Houston, Cincinnati and Atlanta.
In Virginia, a mother used her baby in a stroller as a shield to aid in a heist. In Atlanta, suspects smashed through a glass door with a rock to gain entry. Another gang used a U-Haul to crash through security and grab $7,500 worth of human hair.
In Hawthorne, police say watch out for this team of three, all in their mid-20s.
"Be aware. If you have that funny feeling or you become suspicious, call the police or don't let them in," Yoshida said.
The investigation is ongoing. Anyone with further information was urged to contact Hawthorne police at (310) 349-2820 or (310) 349-2835.