An armed robbery at an east Santa Rosa jewelry store Tuesday erupted in gunfire when a store employee, looking into the barrel of a robber's shotgun, opened fire, Santa Rosa police officials said.
No one was struck by gunfire during the 1 p.m. encounter at Bennett Valley Jewelers on Yulupa Avenue, Santa Rosa Police Lt. Ray Navarro said.
The robbers ran out of the store, carrying an unspecified amount of jewelry, jumped a fence and ran to an apartment complex behind the commercial strip where a getaway driver was waiting for them in a red car, Navarro said.
Police broadcast an alert and within 20 minutes Petaluma police pulled over a Nissan sedan on Highway 101 at East Washington Street. Santa Rosa police said the men inside the vehicle matched the description of those involved in the robbery.
Police arrested Traveon Banks-Austin, 23, of San Pablo and Alexander Tyvon Brandon, 23, and Ervin Dixon Jr., 25, both of Hayward.
Banks-Austin and Brandon were booked into Sonoma County Jail on suspicion of armed robbery and assault with a deadly weapon, police said. Dixon, who police suspect was the driver of the alleged getaway car, was arrested on suspicion of armed robbery.
Bail for Brandon and Dixon was set at $50,000, jail officials said. Bail information for Banks-Austin, who was briefly taken to a hospital and released to the jail, was unavailable.
A firearm similar to the one used by the suspects in the robbery and other items believed to have been taken from the business were found inside the car, Sgt. Dave Linscomb said.
Staff members and several patrons were inside when two men burst into the store wearing hooded jackets and some sort of covering on their faces, Navarro said.
One man carried a shotgun and the other wielded a hammer.
"One man pointed the firearm at employees and patrons while the other smashed the jewelry cases," Navarro said.
One of the hooded men pointed a shotgun at a staff member, who had a handgun. The staff member opened fire, Navarro said.
"The victim fired several rounds to defend himself," Navarro said.
The gunfire left behind at least two bullet holes with rims of shattered glass in front windows of the store. Gunfire apparently struck a carpet van parked outside, shattering a passenger window and possibly flattening a rear tire.
No one was struck by gunfire, Navarro said.
The men ran out of the store with jewelry, Navarro said.
A few doors down from the jewelry store, Joe Video clerk Lisa Reiske heard the unmistakable sound of rapid gunfire.
"Pop pop pop pop," Reiske said. "I said, 'Oh God, it's got to be the jewelry store.'"
She looked up and saw a man in a gray hooded sweatshirt run by and turn down a sidewalk between stores at the strip mall.
"He was booking it," Reiske said. "My heart is still beating, fast."
The sidewalk between stores where the men fled ended with a fence, and the man apparently jumped over the fence and ran to the car, with the driver awaiting them, Navarro said.
One of the men was taken to a hospital for an unspecified medical issue, Navarro said. He was not injured by gunfire.