Robber shot dead in Boca Raton jewelry heist
By MICHAEL LaFORGIA and KEVIN DEUTSCH
Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, May 07, 2008
BOCA RATON — After Leon Rozio got robbed, he vowed never to let it happen again.
Three or four years ago, the 64-year-old owner of Miami-based H&L Wholesale Jewelry Inc. lost some $300,000 in gold and jewelry in a hold up, said his half-brother, Fernando Mirabal.
Soon after, Rozio, a prominent member of Miami's Cuban-American community, started bringing a gun on his sales runs, which took him and his priceless jewelry to shops across South Florida.
About 12:45 this afternoon, not long after Rozio parked his red Ford Explorer outside St. Moritz Jewelers on Boca Raton's west side, four men screamed up behind him in a silver car, boxing him in. They surrounded the Explorer, smashing out all four windows to get at the jewelry inside, witnesses said.
"They took the jewelry from the car," said Sherry Frost, manager of the jewelry store at 21310 St. Andrews Blvd. She watched in horror at what happened next.
Rozio retrieved his pistol and started firing, witnesses said. He emptied three or four rounds into the robbers' Silver Saturn Vue, which was outfitted with a Kansas license plate obscuring a Florida tag, aiming for the tires and the driver's side window.
"He opened up like I have never seen," said Greg Sanderson, manager of a nearby Omaha Steaks shop, who watched the shooting through the store's plate-glass windows. "I couldn't believe it. It sounded like the Wild West out there."
The driver, a young man dressed head to foot in black and wearing a black hood, slammed the car into reverse as the other three men scattered, speeding northbound in the parking lot before lurching to a stop beside a nearby Wendy's.
Shopper Jerry Winter said he was browsing with his wife at Nose For Clothes, a shop next to the jewelry store, when he saw Rozio dashing after the silver Saturn, his gun blazing.
"Somebody could have caught a stray slug," said John Whitmer, a salesman at Omaha Steaks.
One of the men staggered from the car and ran west through the parking lot toward St. Andrew's Boulevard, Winter said.
Paramedics found the wounded robber bleeding in the car, said Fire Rescue spokesman Frank Correggio. The man was taken to Delray Medical Center, where he died soon after, officials said.
The other three men escaped in a silver van, triggering a manhunt; it wasn't clear whether any of them were wounded, or whether they made off with any gold or jewels, police said.
Hours after the shooting, the silver Saturn - its back left tire deflated, its driver door ajar, a smear of blood on the left rear quarterpanel - sat in the parking lot, the dash bell still chiming. Officers and crime scene techs huddled round it as detectives interviewed witnesses.
Investigators still were quizzing Rozio, who held a concealed weapons permit in 2006, records show, about 3 p.m. It's unclear whether he'll face charges in the shooting, police said.
"It's a risky business," said Frost, the store manager, still shaken at what she had seen. "I'm so sick about this."