Saturday, February 14, 2009

California: Robber shot during coin shop heist dies

San Diego, California

From the San Diego Union-Tribune of February 13, 2009
Robber shot during coin shop heist dies

An armed man attempting to rob a North Park coin shop Friday morning was killed after he and at least one of the store's employees exchanged gunfire, police said.

The man and an accomplice went into the Old Coin Shop on El Cajon Boulevard, just east of Texas Street, at 9:16 a.m. and confronted two employees who were both armed with handguns, said San Diego police homicide Lt. Terry McManus.

About the same time police received a 911 call about the robbery and while en route, shots were fired inside the business, McManus said.

Officers found the would-be robber lying on the ground just east of the front door of the shop. McManus said his accomplice had picked him up from inside the store and brought him outside to a nearby parking lot before fleeing with the handgun.

The man had been shot in the left leg and in the lower back, and he died at Mercy Hospital at 9:54 a.m., the lieutenant said. He has been identified as Michael Anthony Watkins Jr., 26, of San Diego.

Witnesses said they saw the second man running from the store. He was described only as a young black man, about 5 feet 10 inches tall, with a thin build and was last seen wearing a gray sweater and dark pants, McManus said.

Officer searching the area found clothing and a handgun in an alley behind a building on Hamilton Street near Howard Avenue, McManus said.

Police are also looking at an older-model car in the Denny's parking lot, which may have been driven by the pair, and are checking it for evidence.

McManus said it has not yet been determined how many shots were fired inside the store or if both employees fired or just one.

The store is equipped with a security system that allows employees to keep the front door locked and buzz customers in, but it was unclear whether that system was in use.

Investigators are also checking for any surveillance video from the store or nearby businesses.

Eric Diaz, 37, said he was in the Denny's restaurant next door washing his hands in the bathroom when he heard two pops and a big crash, which sounded like glass breaking.

Seconds later, police officers rushed into the restaurant's bathroom looking for the shooter. Outside, he saw one of the robbers lying motionless on the sidewalk.

The front glass door of the business, which has bars on the windows, was shattered.

Officers are still searching for the man's accomplice. El Cajon Boulevard, between Texas Street and Hamilton Street, is expected to remain closed for several hours as homicide detectives investigate. McManus said they hope to have the westbound lanes opened soon.

The Old Coin Shop was founded in 1960 by Harlan White, according to the business's Web site. Over the years it has handled many rare and expensive coins, it said.

This isn't the first time the business has been targeted by robbers.

In 1994, a thief ran inside, wedged a newspaper under the doorjamb to keep the security door from locking behind him and ran out with about $500 in silver dollars, according to a news report. He was caught down the block by a good Samaritan who was driving by.

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