Hess: Same robbers hit Medawar, Detroit jeweler

Surveillance images of the men who robbed the Tapper's jewelry store in West Bloomfield. (Courtesy the Kent County Sheriff's Department - April 22, 2014)

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The same people who tried to rob a Grand Rapids-area jewelry store Tuesday succeeded in stealing Rolex watches from jewelry store in the Detroit area later the same day, the Kent County sheriff’s department says.

Four masked men entered the Paul Medawar Fine Jewelry on Plainfield Avenue near 5 Mile Road in Plainfield Township around 12:30 p.m. Tuesday. They shattered a jewelry case and held an employee at gunpoint before owner Paul Medawar and his son David Medawar opened fire on them, shooting at least one in the torso. The men took off without stealing anything.

Paul Medawar Fine Jewelry on Plainfield Avenue. (April 22, 2014)
(Authorities respond after an attempted robbery at Paul Medawar Fine Jewelry on Plainfield Avenue. – April 22, 2014)

Around 5 p.m. Tuesday, the Tapper’s Diamonds and Fine Jewelry in West Bloomfield was robbed at gunpoint, according to WDIV out of Detroit. The 12 employees and seven customers in the store were ordered to the ground by three robbers wearing bandanas and ski masks. The robbers took Rolex watches from a case they ordered an employee to open.

Police respond to a robbery at a West Bloomfield jewelry store. (Courtesy WDIV - April 22, 2014)
(Police respond to a robbery at a West Bloomfield jewelry store. Courtesy WDIV – April 22, 2014)

No employees or customers were hurt in either incident.

Kent County Undersheriff Jon Hess Wednesday confirmed to 24 Hour News 8 that the three West Bloomfield robbers were among the four suspects in the attempted robbery at the Medawar.

It appears the suspect wounded at the Medawar was not at the Tapper’s robbery.

Authorities compared surveillance images from both stores and found the suspects in both incidents were wearing identical clothing and red and blue gloves, and carrying identical bags, a release from the sheriff’s department said.

There are other similarities. Witnesses in both cases described a dark van. And authorities say the robbers were after the same thing at both locations: Rolex watches.

“Rolex watches have a distribution that is limited. Not everybody can sell Rolex watches,” Hess said.

If only a few stores carry the watches the robbers wanted, it could explain why the group hit stores on opposite sides of the state in a single day.

When the same Medawar jewelry store was robbed at gunpoint in October 2010, the robbers were also after Rolex watches.

The three people convicted of that robbery remain behind bars: Jammie Brown and Renard Mitchell, both of whom pleaded guilty to federal charges, are not due to be released from prison until September 2018 and April 2015, respectively. Tyrone Harbin, who pleaded guilty to state charges of armed robbery and felony firearms, is serving between 8 and 25 years in a state prison. He faced state charges because he was under 18 when the crime happened.

Regardless, investigators are looking into whether there is a connection between the 2010 crime and the most recent incidents.

“There are some similarities to 2010,” Hess said. “The location of where the vehicles were placed, the way they entered the store.”

Investigators have a loose theory that there may be an organized, Rolex-thieving gang at work that could have been around for several years.

No one has been arrested in connection to either incident. Hess did not say that investigators have identified the suspects.

But the sheriff’s department says the person the Medawars shot left a trail of blood as he and his cohorts took off from the jeweler and through a nearby neighborhood.

“We have a significant amount of blood that we have sent for testing,” Hess said.

That testing will give them DNA, which will be compared to the millions of samples in an FBI database. If they get a hit, authorities hope it will lead them to the other suspects, too.

Anyone with information about either incident is asked to call the Kent County Sheriff’s Department at 616.632.6100 or Silent Observer at 616.774.2345.

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