FBI widens probe into April robbery at Medawar Jewelers

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WZZM) - It's been four months since a brazen daytime robbery at Paul Medawar Jewelers, but surveillance video, blood, and 137 Rolex watches taken in West Bloomfield may prove key to solving the case.

That's the hope at least, as the FBI continues to investigate the April 22 incident and compare it with similar robberies in Michigan and elsewhere.

The men behind the Medawar robbery are also believed responsible for a jewelry store holdup in West Bloomfield the same day; $1.6 million in Rolex watches there were taken at gunpoint.

Millions of dollars in Rolex watches have been taken in smash-and-grab robberies from California to New York since January. Federal and state agencies are trying to determine if there is a link.

"It's been turned over to the FBI due to the multiple connections around the country,'' Kent County Sheriff's Department Capt. Kevin J. Kelley said.

Jewelry store owner Paul Medawar said he has been instructed by the FBI not to discuss the case, but added "the FBI is sure they will catch them.''

Their only take from his store was a manila envelope that contained personal documents.

He and his son fired at the robbers, striking one in the torso. Police followed a trail of blood to North Valley Drive NE, where the getaway vehicle, described as a dark Chrysler Town and Country van, was parked.

Six days after the robbery, Kent County detectives got a search warrant to check Google records between April 18 and April 22 of direction and location requests for Medawar Jewelers and Tappers Diamonds and Fine Jewelry located in Orchard Mall in West Bloomfield, Mich.

Surveillance video from 16 cameras located inside and outside Medawar, 4518 Plainfield Ave. NE, provide images of the four suspects. All wore dark colored hooded sweatshirts; two were identified as Nike brand, according to court records. Two carried duffel bags and silver-colored sledge-style hammers.

The four were seen pacing outside the store at 12:26 p.m. before they put up their hoods to conceal their faces and entered the store at 12:28 p.m., court records show.

The first suspect, described as a large-framed, dark-skinned male was observed "clearing each room with the handgun pointed in a firing position away from his body,'' according to a search warrant affidavit.

The second suspect walked directly to the display case housing Rolex watches and began smashing the glass with a sledge-style hammer, court records state. Another man forced an employee towards the store safe. The fourth man armed with a sledge-style hammer walked across the front lobby and into the back office area.

With his gun arm extended, the first suspect opened a door leading into the kitchen and video room where employees had run for safety. That is where he is confronted by Paul and David Medawar.

The Medawars, each armed with a .40 caliber Glock handgun, opened fire. One bullet passed through a metal filing cabinet at the rear of the store. The armed suspect appears to have been struck by at least one bullet and is observed stumbling backwards before fleeing over a glass display case. He ran out the front door along with the remaining three suspects, court records show.

The four were last seen heading down an embankment behind the store to the east. Blood droplets were found on a chain link fence behind North Valley Drive NE and along the North Valley Drive. Blood samples were submitted to the Michigan State Police for analysis.

Witnesses reported the suspects ran towards a van parked on North Valley Drive and fled south at a high rate of speed.

Less than five hours later, three men matching the descriptions of the Medawar robbery entered the West Bloomfield jewelry store, about 142 miles away, and made off with 137 Rolex watches valued at $1.6 million.

A Kent County detective wrote in the search warrant affidavit that he "clearly recognized all three suspects as the same suspects involved in the Medawar Jewelry (robbery) with the exception of suspect number 1.''

Robberies in New York, Tennessee, Texas and California have all targeted Rolex watches, which are valued at $11,000 apiece.


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