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Rolexs stolen in Galleria Mall
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Galleria robbery sends shoppers running for safety

$355,000 worth of Rolex watches reportedly stolen in heist

HOUSTON CHRONICLE * Updated 05:17 p.m., Friday, December 23, 2011

Houston and Texas

A robbery at a jewelry store in the Galleria sent holiday shoppers scurrying for safety Thursday night. KPRC-Channel 2 reported on Friday that 20 Rolexes, valued at $355,000, were stolen in the heist. A shopper said he saw three young men, wearing bandanas, running from the Ben Bridge jewelry store about 9:10 p.m. Later Thursday, at least two Houston police officers were speaking with employees inside the store.

Houston police said the incident was not an armed robbery and referred questions to mall security. David Anderson, general manager of the Galleria, said in a statement that no one was injured. He added "there were no firearms used in the robbery." "The Galleria is committed to providing a safe, quality shopping environment to our customers and mall employees," Anderson said in the statement. Anderson added that since Houston police are investigating the robbery, "we are unable to disclose any further information."

Galleria jewelry theft caught on camera

Click to see video of Galleria jewelry theft caught on camera

HOUSTON (KTRK) -- We're getting an inside look at the violent robbery of a Galleria jewelry store that happened in the thick of the holiday shopping rush. It was a fast crime carried out three days before Christmas while the mall was open and packed with one of its biggest crowds of the year.

The video shows just how quickly the thieves were in and out of the crowded mall, running off with hundreds of thousands of dollars in Rolex watches.

Just two days before Christmas, witnesses described the chaos in the Galleria mall.

"Some are getting on the floor flat chested, others are dragging their girlfriends along, their wives, I think I even saw some folks with strollers," said eyewitness Bryan Parras.

Investigators say three men entered the crowded store and shattered the glass of a display case inside.

After clearing the case of its contents, the suspects left through a nearby door and took off in a vehicle waiting outside.

Now the pictures of what went on inside Ben Bridge Jewelers as three men stormed in around nine o'clock that night.

"I'm sure it was pretty startling when they busted the case," said former HPD Officer Rob Kimmons, who now owns his own security company. "Looks like he has some kind of hammer or chisel there."

He examined the quick video of the crime.

"In a case like this you have to deal with the crowds, but if you can get in and out quickly like they did, they create chaos by the mere fact of breaking the glass. It's just difficult for any kind of security response to happen that quickly," said Kimmons.

The thieves made off with almost $400,000 in high end goods including several rare Rolex watches.

Along with the surveillance video, Crime Stoppers released a picture similar to one of the rare watches stolen -- the Yacht Master II Rolex made of oyster, stainless steel and Everose gold. It's believed there are only 12 in the state of Texas.

"Anyone who would plan this type of a crime during the height of the Christmas shopping season, underneath lights where there are witnesses around and surveillance video is recording. Anyone who would do that is a dangerous, violent felon in our community and they need to be stopped before there is a greater tragedy," said Katherine Cabaniss with Crime Stoppers.

This former police officer says investigators have likely checked cameras throughout the mall for pictures of the getaway car and even gone back several weeks to see if these same individuals were casing the store.

"I think it's obvious in this instance they knew exactly what they were going for; in less than a minute they were out of there," Kimmons said.

The suspects are described as three African-American males, approximately 20-30 years old. At the time of the offense, the suspects wore dark colored clothing, gloves, masks and hats to conceal their identity.

Crime Stoppers will pay up to $5,000 for any information called in to the 713-222-TIPS (8477) or submitted online at www.crime-stoppers.org that leads to the filing of felony charges or arrest of the suspects in this case.

Shoppers flee brazen Rolex robbery inside Galleria

Author: Stephen Dean
Published On: Dec 23 2011 04:29:25 PM CST Updated On: Dec 23 2011 05:12:18 PM CST

Video of story on "Click2Houston.com"

Police are searching for three men who carried out a brazen robbery, stealing $355,000 worth of Rolex watches at a jewelry store inside the Galleria mall, Local 2 Investigates reported Friday.

"In and out, less than a minute," said Khanh Le, assistant manager of the Ben Bridge Jewelers, where the men used a hammer to smash out one display case and haul away 20 watches in a duffel bag.

Le said the robbers were standing outside the store among other shoppers, waiting for most of the customers to leave his store around 9:30 p.m. Thursday. He said the robbers then stormed in as two families were still shopping.

"When they realized what was happening, they took off," he said, adding that one family ducked down and moved away from the action while the other couple ran away.

"I trained my staff to get on the floor," he said.

When the first man rushed in, he reached into his waistband and pulled out a hammer to smash the case.

"Good thing it was a sledgehammer. I thought it was a gun," Le said.

The police report, reviewed by Local 2 Investigates, detailed the hefty losses:

• 5 Rolex watches valued at $30,000 each
• 10 Rolex watches valued at $16,000 each
• 5 Rolex watches valued at $9,000 each

The report said the first robber smashed the case, while the other two started quickly loading the watches into a duffel bag.

Police listed the description of all three robbers as being black men between 18 and 25 years old, between 5 feet 7 inches and 5 feet 9 inches tall and about 175 pounds.

Le said the men pulled their hoods over their heads and covered their faces with handkerchiefs before they rushed into the store.

"They knew (what they were looking for). They came in a few days prior. We've had thousands of people in here over the last few days," said Le.

The police report says all three men ran out into the mall and then left the building without being spotted.

The jewelry chain declined to release surveillance video, which captured the entire robbery.

Le said he was thankful that no one was hurt.

The general manager of the Galleria, David Anderson, issued the following written statement.

"Whenever an incident like this occurs in our community, our primary concern is always for the safety of our customers and mall employees. We are pleased to report that no one was injured during this unfortunate incident, and contrary to reports, there were no firearms used in the robbery.

"Since this incident is currently under investigation by the Houston Police Department, we are unable to disclose any further information.

"The Galleria is committed to providing a safe, quality shopping environment to our customers and mall employees.

"In doing so, we take several proactive security measures like maintaining a combination of security forces on property at all times that includes Galleria Security in tandem with Houston Police Department presence.

"We also provide shoppers with security escorts to their vehicles upon request and maintain a continuous security patrol of the Galleria and surrounding parking lots.

"As always, we encourage our customers and mall employees to report suspicious activity immediately to mall security."

Police and security guards were visible throughout the mall Friday afternoon, which is typical.

The store is back open, with wood covering the glass display case that was shattered in the robbery.

If you have a news tip or question for KPRC Local 2 Investigates, drop them an e-mail or call their tip line at (713) 223-TIPS (8477).

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