A jewelry store manager chased two armed thieves and hung onto their getaway car as it sped along a downtown Buffalo street this morning. Motorists -- including a Metro bus driver -- also joined in the chase, and police eventually arrested one suspect.
The two thieves broke the window of Howard Jewelers at 535 Main St. near Huron Street with a chunk of metal about 9:40 a.m., grabbed more than $1,000 worth of merchandise and ran.
"They scooped up the rings and ran toward Washington Street to their car," said Lt. George Gasper of the police robbery squad. "The manager then took off, running after them. He hung onto their car for some distance. It was a nice move, but sort of foolish, too."
The manager, who was not identified, apparently grabbed hold of a window or another part of the car and held on as the thieves drove off. But he soon let go, Gasper said, and was not injured. Other motorists attempted to help, chasing the thieves and trying to cut off their car, Gasper said.
A Metro Bus driver joined the action when he tried unsuccessfully to box in the getaway car, Gasper said. There were unconfirmed reports the thieves struck a couple of other cars with theirs during the chase, Gasper said.
"They're all excited," Gasper explained. "Everyone was trying to help."
At the same time as the jewelry store was robbed, a false alarm of a downtown bank robbery sent extra patrol cars into the area, and officers in those cars eventually joined the chase of the jewelry thieves once they learned there was no bank holdup.
"This may have been a blessing in disguise," Gasper said. "It sort of alerted everybody."
Meanwhile, the thieves, apparently realizing their car was damaged, ditched it on Spring Street near Clinton Street and ran.
Fillmore Station Officers George Amplement and Francis Riedy and Theater District Station Officers Brian Strobele and Joseph McLeod joined the chase and caught a suspect in a field behind Twin Bakery, 647 Eagle St., about 9:45 a.m.
Police said Kirk D. Billingslea, 34, of 137 Stanton St. was charged with burglary, grand larceny, possession of stolen property and criminal mischief. At one point, the suspect apparently had tried to hide under a trailer, said police and Gary Lucci of the bakery machine supply company.
"I didn't know the Police Department had so many cars," Lucci said after a number of officers searched the area and made the arrest.
The other suspect, however, who was armed with an automatic weapon was not apprehended.