City police are investigating an armed robbery that occurred at about 1:35 p.m. at Colonial Jewelers in downtown Frederick, according to Chief Thomas Ledwell.
Several people inside the store were exposed to pepper spray, Ledwell said. A supervisor at the county's Emergency Communication Center said several ambulances were dispatched to the area.
Ledwell said police have put a lookout for three black suspects, driving a dark-colored Ford F-150 pickup truck.
Marieke Bier of Adamstown was shopping downtown when it happened. She said she saw at least three getaway cars take off in different directions.
“One of the getaway cars almost hit me coming down the street,” she said.
Bier said she did not see the people, but heard they were wearing ski masks.
The whole building was filled with pepper spray, according to Jeffrey Hurwitz.
"Everybody's fine," Hurwitz said.
Ledwell said there were customers inside the store at the time of the robbery. He did not know immediately if anything was taken. The fire department is ventilating the store.
Katie Fitzgerald was in the store with a friend who was looking for engagement rings when the robbers ran in.
"They were pointing the guns at us, told us to get on the ground," she said.
The men ran toward the back of the store and used what seemed like a hatchet to slam into the store's jewelry cases. Employees in the rear part of the store were pepper sprayed, she said.
Everything happened fast and seemed organized, she said. "These guys knew what they were doing," Fitzgerald said.
After the men ran out, Fitzgerald said she jumped up and locked the front door while others called 911.
Fitzgerald said police arrived quickly because at least one officer was already nearby.
She said she's OK after the incident, but "we're both just a bit scared."
"Everyone was really shaken up," she said.
West Patrick Street has been reopened to traffic, according to a news release from the Frederick Police Department.
Anyone with information is asked to contact Det. Corporal A. Lapp at 301-600-6390 or contact the Frederick Police Department anonymously at 301-600-8477 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Colonial Jewelers is a fourth-generation family owned store located at the Square Corner in downtown Frederick. The company was founded in Westminster in 1920. The Frederick location has been in operation for 65 years.
Thieves committed a similar robbery in Arlington, Va. on Monday. Surveillance footage shows four men with their faces obscured by hoods smashing cases at Zales jewelers and taking jewelry.
The men took 27 rings worth $128,000, according to a police report.
To see the surveillance video from the Arlington County Police Department, click here.
Witnesses said that the suspects were black men aged 18 to 22 years-old and about 5 feet 7 inches tall, said Arlington Police spokesman Dustin Sternbeck.
Witnesses reported that the men left together in a red sedan and drove through a mechanical arm in the parking lot, he said.