TILTON, N.H. — A trio of masked robbers vowed to return for more as they fled with thousands in merchandise from Kay Jewelers at the Tanger Outlets on Friday night.
“They were so rehearsed and so calm when they did this. The customers said it was almost like they did this for a living,” Tilton Police Chief Robert Cormier said yesterday.
The robbers, one of whom had a gun, stole gold and jewelry, but were unable to smash a laminated glass case containing diamonds, prompting the threat to come back. The manhunt continued Saturday, and store security was to be beefed up, Cormier said.
The robbery, reported at 7:49 p.m., was carried out within two minutes. Two of the men wore “Scream” masks from the movie “Scary Movie,” and the third wore a Halloween mask. All three men wore gloves, light jeans and black hooded sweatshirts. They were all described as being at least 6 feet tall, 200 pounds. One was 6 feet 2 or 3 inches tall.
“I think we’re looking at an organized, professional group. I don’t believe this was their first time,” Cormier said.
Police are looking into similar robberies, such as one reported recently in Manchester. Cormier said there was also a recent jewelry store heist in North Hollywood, Calif., with a strong resemblance to the Tilton robbery.
“If you saw that video of the L.A. case, the video is identical to this case,” he said.
The record-high price of gold is likely to blame for recent jewelry thefts, he said.
Cormier said the first of the thieves entered the store and ordered the four customers, including a 12-year-old girl with her mother, and three store employees to the floor. He was armed with a silver semiautomatic pistol. The second and third suspects had hammers with which they smashed two glass cases containing high-end gold and jewelry. Despite 14 hammer strikes to the laminated case holding the diamonds, the thieves were unable to break through, but promised to return for the goods, Cormier said.
“They yelled back, ‘We’ll be back for that case,’” Cormier said. “That’s the last thing they said when they walked out that door. We’re going to be around that store.”
The apparent ringleader served as timekeeper to the robbery and advised at the one-minute mark: “Keep going. There’s plenty of time.”
Cormier said police were notified simultaneously via a silent alarm at the store and 9-1-1 calls from customers’ cell phones.
The robbers left through the front door, then ducked behind Starbucks to the rear of the outlet center toward a wooded area that leads to another street. Kay is on the western edge of the outlet center and close to Interstate 93, Cormier said. He said it’s likely the trio had a getaway vehicle and driver waiting.
“They were very well-organized,” he said.
“Now we’re just praying for leads. We’re hoping someone may know something or someone saw the car. We did canvas the area all day today,” Cormier said, adding he’d hoped the police would find a discarded mask from which they could extract DNA.
He said the town has experienced robberies before, but this was the first jewelry store robbery he could recall. Cormier advised that anyone caught in a robbery situation should stay calm and comply with the culprits’ demands.
Anyone who may have seen three tall men get in or out of a vehicle near the store can call Tilton police at 603-286-4442. The robbers should be considered armed and dangerous.
The thieves made off with tens of thousands of dollars in jewelry. An employee who answered the phone at the store Saturday referred a reporter to a company spokesman, but efforts to reach the representative were unsuccessful.
(c)2011 The New Hampshire Union Leader (Manchester, N.H.)
Distributed by MCT Information Services