I remember this call well. I was the TFO on board the helicopter but I can't seem to remember who was flying on this day, perhaps Scott Sterner. It was a sunny October morning in 2009 when we were called to assist Carlsbad Police Department with a jewelry store robbery.
Carlsbad is a coastal city that enjoys a pretty low crime rate anyway. As we arrived I was directed to the jewelry store by officers on the ground. The store was the end unit of a rather long but quaint commercial building in the downtown area of Carlsbad known as the village.
The primary Carlsbad PD officer requested that we check the roof since the robber seemed to emerge from the lady's restroom to commit his crimes, and then disappeared back into the lady's restroom after robbing the two employees who had just opened up shop. Sure enough, peering through my stabilized binoculars I observed a definite hole in the roof of the business, not far from the back door.
The robber had been wearing a full mask and gloves, so there was very little description for law enforcement to go on at the time. We did however conduct some PA announcements in the area in an attempt to find potential witnesses, who may have seen anything or anyone suspicious prior to the robbery.
A short time later officers confirmed that there was a hole in the ceiling of the women's restroom. A few minutes after that they announced that a mask, an airsoft gun, a bag and jewelry were found in the crawl space between the ceiling and the roof. We stayed on scene for some time while officers cleared the crawl space, and surrounding businesses. I could see why the robber might think it was smart to leave his gun and mask behind, but why would he leave some of the jewels behind? Had officers arrived on scene while the suspect was still in the roof, causing him to abandon his loot? Ultimately it would be DNA from the mask that would convict him.
Eventually it was determined that the suspect was most likely out of the area. With nothing else for us to do, we went back into service and flew away thinking we had probably heard the last about the case.
Imagine my surprise this morning when I ran across this article published just today in the San Diego Reader. It seems our robber friend had a long history of similar criminal conduct. So much so that the judge found it acceptable to sentence him to 50 years to life in prison for this robbery. It's a great read!