Four men stormed a Safeway supermarket early Tuesday, holding employees at gunpoint while they robbed the store and then escaping, authorities said.

Police searched the area for the fugitives.

No customers were in the store at the time of the holdup, police said. They did not immediately confirm witness reports that shots were fired or broadcast reports that one person was injured.

Police arrived at the store in the East Bay north of Berkeley shortly after 6 a.m.

Employee Dominic Cortez, 20, was waiting outside the store for a manager to open the door when four men approached him and one pressed a gun to his back, said his brother, Daniel Cortez, 19.

The gunman forced him inside the store and into a file room along with several other employees. Cortez called his mother and told her the store was being held up, his brother said.

Josiah Bump, 19, was working the overnight shift stocking shelves when he saw a gunman enter the store and pistol-whip another employee, said his sister, Jennifer Hardin, who said she spoke to her brother by cell phone. She said her brother escaped from the building.