A smash-and-grab burglary at a Nevada City jewelry store didn't prove profitable after an employee at a neighboring business witnessed the break-in and called 911.
The night-shift employee in the 200 block of Broad Street heard glass breaking just before 3 a.m. Tuesday and looked out the front window, said Nevada City Police Lt. Lorin Gage.
The person, who was working at the National Hotel, was able to see a white SUV-type vehicle and a sedan; the SUV apparently had used a chain to yank the metal grate "security" door off La Cache.
According to jewelry store owner Jim Rudisill, a passing taxi driver also witnessed the break-in.
"It was pretty brazen," Rudisill said. "They broke all the cases on the right side (of the store) and pretty well cleared out what was not put in the safe ... When the alarm's going off, it makes a lot of noise. I'm sure they were in a hurry to take care of business."
There were as many as three men involved and both vehicles got on Highway 49 headed south, Gage said.
After a be-on-the-lookout advisory was issued, the vehicles were spotted by Placer County Sheriff's deputies.
The sedan was stopped near Lone Star Road, Gage said. The driver, Robert Dean Henson, 29, of Sacramento, was found to be on parole and was taken into custody. He also has been charged with burglary and criminal conspiracy.
Deputies continued to follow the SUV southbound on Highway 49 and onto Dry Creek Road before pulling it over.
"The driver fled on foot," Gage said.
A sheriff's deputy engaged in a short chase and then returned to the SUV, which was still running.
There were two large containers inside the vehicle holding jewelry, and a chain hooked to the rear axle that led around the tailgate and through the rear window, Gage said.
Both vehicles were towed and impounded, and were searched for fingerprints and DNA evidence by forensic investigators from the state Department of Justice.
"We recovered a large amount of jewelry, and some cell phones," said Sgt. Paul Rohde. "We did find some other identification in the car that we're not disclosing yet."
Both suspects are from the Sacramento area, Gage said, adding there have been similar incidents in Sacramento and Lincoln.
"This is a small town, nobody's out at night on a Monday night," Gage said. "They expected to get in and get out real quick."
Rudisill spent most of the day clearing up broken glass and said the store will be back open for business today.
"We've been really blessed in that law enforcement has been great," he said.
A jewelry store on Sacramento Street in Old Town Auburn was also burglarized Tuesday at nearly the exact same time in what could be a related incident.
"Three guys came in at 3 a.m.," said Sierra Moon Goldsmiths owner John Lynch. "They busted the window to the front door, shattered the cases and got off with what they could - in 40 seconds."
The trio was captured on videotape, but there was no view available of their vehicle, Lynch said. Auburn Police Capt. John Ruffcorn said all three men were wearing black hoodies, sweatshirts and gloves.
Lynch said almost all of his items of value, as well as customers' merchandise, were stored out of the cases overnight.
"None of that was in danger," he said, calling his estimated loss "fairly low."
Lynch was aware of the break-in at La Cache, but was not sure if there was a connection.
"It is very weird," he said.
The case is under investigation, Ruffcorn said, adding a connection to the Nevada City burglary is possible.
"It could be several people working together," he said. "For (a burglary) to happen in the same manner at the same time, that's pretty unusual right there."
To contact Staff Writer Liz Kellar, e-mail email@example.com or call (530) 477-4229.