By Michelle Graff
Austin, Texas—Three Houston men have been charged in the May 7 armed robbery of an Austin jewelry store that left a security guard in critical condition and resulted in $350,000 in lost merchandise and damage.

A criminal complaint filed in a Texas federal court on May 11 charges 21-year-old Darius Limar Sonnier, 20-year-old Wallace Diaveon Charles and Tye Joseph-Phillip Gobert, 18, with four counts each of robbery and weapons violations.

The robbery at Korman Fine Jewelry took place shortly before 5 p.m.

According to the complaint, at least five suspects entered the jewelry store, and one of them took out a gun and began shouting for everyone to get down on the floor.

One of the robbers, Sonnier, allegedly told an FBI agent in a post-arrest interview he was the one who shot and pistol-whipped the store security guard. Another one of the suspects hit a female employee on the back of the head with his gun.

The guard needed emergency surgery and is still recovering from a gunshot wound to the abdomen and blunt-force trauma to his head.

While the store’s employees were down on the ground, the suspects smashed display cases with hammers and took multiple Rolex watches and other items valued at more than $200,000, while also causing about $150,000 in damage to the store.

A few of the suspects fled in a silver four-door Chevrolet Cruze—Sonnier allegedly told the agent he and five other people had driven from Houston to Austin to rob the jewelry store—which was found abandoned a couple blocks north of the store.

Sonnier, Charles and Gobert fled the scene on foot, slipping through a fence behind the store.

Officers from the Austin Police Department chased them down in neighborhoods no more than five blocks from Korman Fine Jewelry.

The three men made their initial appearances before a federal magistrate judge in Austin last Thursday. If convicted, they face a maximum sentence of life in prison.

All three remain in custody.

In a news release, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Texas said the other suspects are still at large.

Anyone with information is asked to contact the FBI at 210-225-6741 or the Austin Police Department.

Following the robbery, the Jewelers’ Security Alliance released a list of tips for jewelry stores reopening in the wake of the pandemic.

It includes:
-- Keeping the entrance locked and only admitting a small number of people at a time;
-- Looking for red flags in addition to masks, like hoodies, hats, sunglasses, seasonally inappropriate attire, etc.;
-- Installing exterior cameras;
-- Adjusting store hours so the jewelry store isn’t the only open business in the neighborhood; and
-- Reclaiming keys and resetting alarm codes and safe combinations possessed or known by furloughed or laid off employees, if necessary.

TAGS:   Crime
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