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    Robbers grab jewelry in swift, 'bold' holdup

    The thieves were in and out of the Ulmerton Road store in about 90 seconds during the noon robbery.

    By CHRISTINA HEADRICK

    © St. Petersburg Times,
    published June 4, 2001


    ST. PETERSBURG -- Two men smashed display cases and grabbed jewelry at the Gold and Diamond Source about noon Sunday as a third held a handgun to a clerk's head.

    A fourth man waited in a stolen getaway car outside the jewelry store at 3800 Ulmerton Road, Pinellas County deputies said.

    The robbers were in and out of the shop in about 90 seconds.

    They sped two blocks away and abandoned their car on 40th Street. Tire marks suggested they jumped into a second car left there and drove off.

    "A daylight robbery of a jewelry store is bold," Pinellas sheriff's spokeswoman Marianne Pasha said.

    The robbers "took quite a bit" of jewelry, Pasha said, although she declined to disclose the heist's value. Banners draped on the jewelry store stated the shop was having a clearance sale for $8-million of inventory, due to sister stores closing in Tampa and Brandon.

    No one was injured, but store employees said the robbery was terrifying.

    "They were shaken up," said Deputy Jacob Viano, who responded first to the scene.

    Two store clerks said the store had just opened at noon when the first two men came in. They said they wanted to look at jewelry. The men were described as 18 to 20 years old, black, 5 feet 6 to 5 feet 8, and wearing T-shirts and shorts.

    Then a third man entered the store, whipped out a handgun that he was holding under his arm, grabbed one clerk and yelled, "This is a holdup."

    He put his gun to the frightened clerk's head and shouted at three other employees to lie on the floor.

    Witnesses described the gunman as a 30- to 35-year-old black man with dreadlocks and wearing a long-sleeve plaid shirt, Pasha said. He was trying to conceal his front teeth with a roll of cotton or cloth, so there may be something identifying about his teeth, Pasha added.

    As the older man held the scared clerk, one of the younger men smashed glass display cases with a crowbar or hammer, while the other scooped up jewelry, Pasha said.

    Deputies have a video of the crime from surveillance cameras and are considering releasing pictures of the robbers, Pasha said.

    Late Sunday, investigators had not linked the robbery to any other recent crimes.

    Based on the description of the suspects, it appears to be separate from a recent string of robberies where the robbers put a closed sign on the door of local businesses during the crimes.

    A county forensics team took pictures of the tire tracks left behind Sunday. The team also impounded the abandoned green, late-model Honda Civic, which the robbers first sped away in. They were examining it for fingerprints and other evidence, Pasha said.

    The owner of the Gold and Diamond Source could not be reached.

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