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During my repair, the front panel did not easily release from the LCD -it may have been glued in place. I needed to replace the smashed digitizer WITHOUT damaging the LCD panel underneath.
My solution was to push the digitizer out from behind. I did this by sticking a small screwdriver through the small opening for the 'front panel ribbon cable' as featured in step 30. This did not damage my LCD as this opening is above where the LCD is mounted, near the speaker and ambient light sensors.