Woman recounts being locked in closed store

Posted at 9:41 AM, Jun 03, 2016
and last updated 2016-06-03 09:41:01-04

CAPE CORAL, Fla. -- Have you ever worried about being locked inside a department store after it closed?  A local woman says that's exactly what happened to her at the Cape Coral Belk, saying it was like something out of a movie.

She says without warning, all the doors were locked and all the employees gone.

"I felt like I was a hostage. Like I was in prison," says Janine Love-Estes.

"The exit door is a garage roll down," she says on her cell phone video as she was barricaded inside the store with the alarm blaring.

Panic began to set in for her and the two women she was with, and it wasn't just because they were trapped.  "I'm like, is someone going to think that we burglarized this store? How are the police going to come in here?"

Janine tells Fox 4 she's always loved shopping at Belk. She usually goes to the Gulf Coast Town Center location, which closes at 9. So she assumed the Cape Coral one did as well.

It was raining Wednesday night, and she and her granddaughter and friend were in no hurry to come outside.  "Just laughing and talking and trying on clothes. When we came out of the dressing room, we headed to the nearest counter that we could find in the women's department, but there was no clerk there."

That's because this Belk closed twenty minutes earlier at 8:00.  "The music is still playing, they're still announcing sales, and we're locked in the store," she says on her cell phone video while still inside.

Police eventually did arrive, and they called someone from the store to unlock the doors.  But the women were trapped there for more than an hour.

"What kind of protocol do you have that you don't make sure your store is clear of customers before you lock it up?"

Love-Estes is hoping, at the least, for an apology.

Fox 4 asked Belk to respond to the incident, and a spokesperson told us that closing announcements were made at 7:45, and that the last worker left at 8:30.  The spokesperson added that all of their stores have emergency exits and anyone can get out through those doors at any time.