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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.

Bennett Valley Jewelers was robbed in 2008 by a man who first chatted with staff before brandishing

a gun, police said at the time. The man stuffed a bag with Rolex watches during the March 5, 2008,

morning robbery and ran out of the store. Police released several sketches of the suspect but have not

made an arrest in the case.

You can reach Staff Writer Julie Johnson at 521-5220 or julie.johnson@pressdemocrat.com. On

Twitter @jjpressdem.


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