Botched Lauderdale store robbery ends with 2 alleged gunmen shot by owners
By Brian Haas
Posted May 9 2007, 2:21 PM EDT
FORT LAUDERDALE --Two men who tried to rob a Fort Lauderdale jewelry store at gunpoint were shot and critically wounded by the store owners in a gun battle, police said Wednesday.
The two men pretended to be customers at Bentley's Jewelers at 2753 E. Oakland Park Blvd. about 11 a.m., said Detective Katherine Collins, spokeswoman for the Fort Lauderdale Police Department. At some point, she said, the two men pulled out guns to rob the store.
At least one of the store's owners, however, pulled out a gun as well. Both sides exchanged fire. One of the robbers was shot in the upper torso and fell critically wounded in the store, Collins said. The other, bleeding from several wounds, stumbled outside to a silver SUV and fled, she said.
The fleeing SUV smashed into two parked vehicles and one occupied car, Collins said. No one was injured in the crashes.
The person in the car was able to call police and give a description of the SUV and a partial license plate number, Collins said.
Within a few minutes, a bulletin was issued for a silver SUV fleeing from a hit-and-run, said Wilton Manors police officer Greg Gardner. He spotted the SUV and pulled it over at Oakland Park Boulevard near North Andrews Avenue with several Fort Lauderdale officers assisting.
The man surrendered peacefully.
"He had blood on him from here [pointing to the chest] all the way down to his knees," Gardner said.
Both men were rushed to Broward General Medical Center with critical, life-threatening injuries, Collins said. The jewelry store owners were unhurt.
Police have not release the names of any of the people involved yet. Corporate records indicate the store is owned by Hugo R. Villalta.
Carter McDonald said he has been a customer of Villalta's for 15 years and he was going to pick up a watch Wednesday.
"He's one of the most loved and respected members of this community," McDonald said. He added that Villalta has an extensive security system in place. "If anyone tried to make a move on Hugo, they made a mistake."
Police have not filed any charges. The investigation continues.
Under Florida laws, a citizen is allowed to use deadly force to defend oneself or others if someone is in danger of death or great bodily harm. The state's still-fresh "Stand Your Ground" law also says that citizens do not have any duty to try and retreat before using deadly force.