PLAINFIELD TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — Two Plainfield Township jewelry store owners say they warned four would-be robbers before opening fire, shooting at least one.
“We’re yelling, ‘We have guns. We have guns.’ He comes in aiming at us. What are we going to do?” David Medawar told 24 Hour News 8.
The attempted robbery happened around 12:30 p.m. Tuesday at Paul Medawar Fine Jewelry on Plainfield Avenue near 5 Mile Road, north of Grand Rapids, the Kent County Sheriff’s Department said. At least one of four suspects, all of whom are believed to be men, had a gun. They were also armed with a hammer.
Store owner Paul Medawar and his son David told 24 Hour News 8 the would-be robbers went directly to a case holding Rolex watches upon entering the store. The suspects shattered at least one jewelry case, according to the sheriff’s department.
“It all happened very fast,” David Medawar said.
David Medawar said they could see the robbers coming, so they tried to gather their employees into a safe room. One employee did not make it into the safe room, Medawar said, and was ordered at gunpoint by the robbers to open the safe. The Medawars said the suspects were likely trying to get diamonds or other high-end valuables.
The Medawars, who were watching video surveillance camera from the safe room, armed themselves.
“As they were looking for the other employees, that’s when we saw them on the camera. They were coming to us in our safe room. And that is when we warned them and they did not listen,” David Medawar said.
“He opened the door. … We warned him. And the door opened slowly with the gun pointed at us. He can’t see us, we saw him and it’s done,” Paul Medawar recounted.
“We told them, ‘We have guns. We will shoot you. Leave, leave. We will shoot you. Leave.’ And they did not leave. They came in and pursued to try to get all of us,” David Medawar said. “And we saw the threat; we saw him aiming his gun at us, coming in the door, so we fired and eliminated the threat. And they fled.”
Kent County Undersheriff Jon Hess said two shots were fired. The Medawars said surveillance video appears to show one of the suspects being shot. At least one person was struck in the torso area, the sheriff’s department said in a Tuesday afternoon release.
The would-be robbers then escaped down a hill behind the jewelry store, Hess said. The Medawars said they did not get away with anything. None of the four jewelry store employees were hurt.
Authorities initially said there were five suspects, but later revised that number to four.
“They were wearing dark blue tops. They had a black mask on. That’s the description we got from people in the neighborhoods, as well as the employees in the store,” Hess said.
After the suspects fled the jewelry store, Northview Public Schools were put on lockdown for a time as a precaution, according to the district’s superintendent. Classes were still in session inside the schools, but no one was allowed inside the buildings unless approved.
Authorities say the would-be robbers may have escaped through the North Valley Condos neighborhood, which is directly behind and downhill from the jeweler, so they focused their search there.
“When you have four to five state police cars all of a sudden show up and then you have them out there with their dogs and their automatic weapons, that is something you normally don’t see in your neighborhood,” resident Beth Rings said.
She was at her home near the Medawar’s when the robbery happened.
“I heard like a big bang. I thought someone slammed a door really hard, and come to find out it was actually the gun that was going off,” Rings said.
Another neighbor said she thinks she saw two of the suspects before the robbery, climbing the hill leading from her neighborhood to the jeweler.
“Two men dressed in black walking on the road, and they turned the corner and went straight up that road and walked straight up that hill, which is very steep inclined,” the resident recounted. “And I thought, ‘Why are they going up that hill?'”
A short time later, she said, she watched a man dressed in black jump into what she described as a black pickup truck.
“By the time I got up to get a better look at it, they were gone. I don’t know how they made it that fast,” she said.
Police called off tracking dogs and stopped their foot search about two hours after the robbery. A police helicopter was called in to the area later in the afternoon. Detectives searched the streets for evidence.
Anyone who saw anything suspicious or with information about the robbery is asked to call the Kent County Sheriff’s Department at 616.632.6100 or Silent Observer at 616.774.2345.
The Medawars said that after one of their employees was tied up and they were held at gunpoint during an October 2010 robbery, they wanted to be able to protect themselves.
“When it first happened in 2010, we felt very helpless. Victims of this horrible, brazen crime,” David Medawar said. “So your life changes and we said, ‘We’re going to get trained. We’re going to learn how to protect ourselves so we are not a victim anymore.'”
They went to the sheriff’s department and were trained on how to handle firearms and how to react in the event of a robbery.
“When we see a threat, we were taught to warn the threat that we are armed, which is what we did,” David Medawar said. “We went through rigorous training. … You’re not as prepared as you think you are. But it’s something that changes your life. And even when you think you’re prepared and you do fire a shot, it’s almost like you’re going back to your training.”
“You do what you can. You protect yourself. You hope for the best. You prepare for the worst but hope for the best. The rest is up to God,” he continued.
Later Tuesday, police in West Bloomfield told WDIV out of Detroit that they are looking into whether there is a connection between a late Tuesday afternoon jewelry store robbery and the attempted robbery at Medawar’s. In that case, three masked men with guns ordered employees and customers to the ground and stole items from a case they ordered an employee to open.
Below, watch 24 Hour News 8’s report of the October 2010 armed robbery at Medawar’s via YouTube.