PARIS — Armed thieves entered the luxury Ritz Hotel and stole jewels and other valuables from a hotel boutique Wednesday, carrying out an unusually brazen heist in one of the world's most prestigious neighborhoods.
French media estimated the stolen merchandise as worth at least $5.4 million (4.5 million euros). The Paris police press office confirmed that sum to NBC News.
None of the jewels or other items had been recovered so far, said an official familiar with the investigation. Both officials were not authorized to be publicly named.
Three suspects were quickly arrested near the chic Place Vendome in central Paris, but at least two others got away, a police press officer told NBC News. No one was injured, the official said.
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One official said some of the thieves apparently had guns, but could not confirm reports that they used hatchets to smash the glass.
The thieves appeared to have entered through a side street entrance on rue Cambon, smashed display cases in the Reza jewelry store and possibly others and took valuables, one of the officials told The Associated Press. Reza is among several elite shops in the five-star Hotel Ritz, where rooms start at over $1,000 a night.
Two people were inside the store at the time and alerted police, the official said.
A woman leaving the Ritz after the robbery described drinking a cocktail in the hotel's Hemingway Bar when "total panic" broke out.
"I saw hooded men with guns, and then my only aim was getting out of there. So I left through the bar. I escaped. I ran and ran. I found myself in the basement of the Ritz and then I continued to run without knowing how to get around. I didn't know what had happened. I thought it was an attack," said the woman, who gave only her first name, Jennifer.
Several high-end Paris jewelry stores have been targets of dramatic robberies in recent years, including Cartier, Harry Winston and Chopard. Kim Kardashian West said she lost millions of dollars' worth of jewelry when she was robbed at gunpoint in a Paris apartment in October 2016.
The Ritz is an especially luxurious target. The 19th century hotel, which reopened in 2016 after an extensive four-year renovation, has housed such famous names as Ernest Hemingway and Coco Chanel. It was the last place Princess Diana stayed before her fatal car crash in a Paris tunnel, and hosts elite guests from around the world who prize the refined neighborhood.
The area of the city is considered well-secured, with police routinely patrolling the Place Vendome, which is home to the Justice Ministry and luxury stores in addition to the Ritz.