SWAT team members were still on the scene Friday afternoon searching for a suspect.
"We have three to four suspects that entered the Monaco Jewelry here in San Juan Capistrano in an attempt to rob the jewelry store. At some point during that robbery, an employee of the store fired on two of the suspects," said Orange County Sheriff's Lieutenant Steve Doan.
The attempted robbery occurred happened after 11 a.m. with dozens of employees and customers in neighboring businesses.
"I heard the shots and I tried to cover myself because I was scared, you know," said Jose Lopez, who witnessed the incident.
"[The employee] was really upset. You could tell he was upset. He was definitely emotional, you know, obviously. I would have been too," said Chris Kirby, a witness at the scene.
The shooting sparked a manhunt for one suspect who got away. Employees of a nearby Costco were asked to leave the store one by one.
"They locked down the warehouse just so they could do a thorough search through the entire warehouse, through all the steel, the back, receiving, everything," said Jose Navarro, a store employee.
Detectives interviewed the jewelry store employees and were reviewing surveillance video from businesses in the area. Some residents said it's the second robbery in the past year and a half at the business.
"I was worried about the owner and the employees because we buy my jewelry from there, you know," said San Juan Capistrano resident Donna Whited. "We've been shopping in there for over 17 years and I was concerned about their safety."
The suspect at large was described as a male standing about 6 feet tall, wearing a light shirt and dark pants.
It was not clear if any of the suspects were armed.
If you have information about the case, contact the Orange County Sheriff's Dept. at (714) 628-7170.