The robberies occurred at Serramonte Center in Daly City, Stonestown Galleria in San Francisco, and a parking lot in the area of Metro Center in Colma, Daly City police Capt. Michael Edwards said.
The suspect, identified as 30-year-old Antoine De Shawn Justin, allegedly drove from mall to mall in a light-colored Pontiac Grand Am stolen from the Daly City BART station this morning.
The robbery at Serramonte Center happened around noon.
"The suspect was driving around the parking lot and the two victims who were at Serramonte had just entered their vehicles," Edwards said.
The suspect pulled up alongside them and demanded their belongings at gunpoint, Edwards said.
Police began to investigate and quickly received word that robberies had also occurred at the two other shopping centers.
A Daly City officer spotted the Pontiac on Junipero Serra Boulevard and attempted to pull it over. The suspect tried to flee but almost immediately crashed into a parked car at the intersection of Junipero Serra and Westlake Avenue, police said.
He then ran, hopping a chain-link fence, crossing the BART tracks and heading down toward Interstate Highway 280 where he was intercepted by police.
Police say Justin has addresses in San Francisco and Vallejo. He was arrested for four counts of armed robbery and possession of a stolen vehicle.
Purses and other stolen items were recovered from the Pontiac, including a necklace and some hair products one of the Serramonte victims had purchased on her shopping trip, Edwards said.
In addition, police collected various credit cards and IDs that Edwards said Justin had dropped on the BART tracks and near the freeway as he ran.
A handgun was recovered from the vehicle, although Edwards said he had not been informed whether the gun was real or a replica.
The robbery victims were brought to the scene of the crash this afternoon and identified Justin as the man who had robbed them, Edwards said.
Daly City resident Jane Ancheta, who lives several blocks away from the crash site, said police were still removing evidence from the Pontiac around 2 p.m.
She said purses, wallets and other items were strewn throughout the inside of the vehicle. She watched an officer remove a gun and place it in a plastic bag.
No one was injured in the robberies. Edwards said the suspect sustained a small injury to his hand, possibly from jumping the fence while running from police.
Edwards said it appears Justin was acting alone but warned shoppers to be careful.
"We tend to get more car break-ins this time of year," he said. "It's hard to say whether we get more purse snatches."
"We always tell people to be more aware and not relax because it's the holiday season," he said.