Delray Beach, Florida

From the Ft. Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel of November 21, 2007

Guns fired in attack on Delray coin and jewelry store

Three men and a woman were arrested Tuesday after police said they burst into a coin and jewelry store on Federal Highway and fired shots at employees.

No one was hurt and nothing was stolen, but a chase ensued that led police through three cities after the getaway car.

Brittney Hinners, 18, of Delray Beach, Blake Lauseng, 20, of Boynton Beach, and Horace Brown, 23, and Thomas Coates, 24, no addresses given, were charged with armed robbery with a firearm, said Jeff Messer, police spokesman.

It started as a ruse when a young woman entered Andrew’s jewelry shop shortly after 3 p.m pretending to look at engagement rings. She managed to prop open the front door to bypass its automatic locking system as she left.

Two men with handguns then stormed into the shop and yelled, “Hey you!” At least one of the men fired four rounds at the owner and two employees, Messer said.

“When I heard the shots I thought Andrew [the owner] was just nailing something to the wall,” sand Lee Pickens, owner of the Scuba Center shop next door.

The store owner reached for his gun from behind the counter and was going to return fire, Messer said, but the men fled the store, tucked in the corner of the small Mayfair Plaza in the 800 block of northbound Federal Highway. They jumped over a cream-colored stucco wall that separates the plaza from a quiet neighborhood street where the getaway car, a black Mitsubishi Galant, was waiting.

Police picked up the woman and a man thought to be the driver near the store. They pursued the two other men in a zigzagging, 16-mile car chase that finally ended a half-mile south of the Forest Hill Boulevard exit on Interstate 95 when police blew out the car’s tires. One of the men tossed a gun over the median, and police recovered the other inside the car.

No one was hurt in the car chase, Messer said.

“South Florida has been hit like a plague with these violent robberies recently,” he said. “Who are all these people?”

The four were being booked into the Palm Beach County Jail on Tuesday, and most of them confessed to their part in the robbery, Messer said. Brown also had a warrant and was charged with possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, he said.

Initially police were treating the incident as an attempted murder since the men did not demand anything and instead started shooting. However, further investigation revealed that their intent was robbery, Messer said.

By 5 p.m. crime scene investigators were dusting the store’s door for prints and making molds of footprints left near the wall. Meanwhile, customers and employees came out of their stores to see what the commotion was about. Most did not even hear the gunshots. When Pickens went to see what was going on she saw the owner standing outside the shop with a shotgun in hand, she said.

The Delray Beach resident said she’s known the owner since she opened her shop eight years ago.

“He’s a nice guy,” she said. “I’ve always felt good about Andrew being next door because he has a gun.”

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