A robbery attempt at a well-known Conroe business Wednesday morning failed miserably, and the suspects wound up fleeing with nothing and leaving some of their own valuables behind.
According to Conroe Police Department Assistant Chief Russell Reynolds, at 10:23 a.m., the agency received a report of a robbery in progress at Wilkins Jewelers in the Courtland Place Shopping Center located in the 17000 block of North Frazier. They arrived to find the owner, Mitch Wilkins, bloody from injuries sustained during a scuffle with one of three suspects, and his mother who was unharmed. Mitch Wilkins was also in possession of the gun one of the would-be robbers used to strike him in the head, as well as a ring the suspect brought in.
As of this writing, two of the suspects are in custody and one remains at large. Their story should be a lesson to anyone else who thinks about robbing the decades old family business.
Mitch Wilkins says the day began like any other, opening at 10 a.m. with he and his mother in the shop. Soon after, two men and a woman entered the business. He says they were well-dressed and his mom, Shirley Wilkins said she recognized the woman, who approached her counter asking to look at some jewelry. She had begun showing them pieces, when the third suspect started trying to get Mitch Wilkins’ attention.
“He was saying, ring clean, ring clean,” Mitch Wilkins said. “We’ve been here 35 years and we do that all the time. I walked out, took his ring, and went to the back to do just that.”
At that point, Mitch Wilkins heard what he describes as a hand slapping glass really loudly and he turned to realize the suspect had vaulted over the counter, gun in hand and was quickly near him and pointing the gun in Mitch Wilkins’ face.
At the same time, the man and woman at 78-year-old Shirley Wilkins’ counter became aggressive, both grabbing her. She calmly retold the story, saying the woman had both hands on her and the man was holding her with one hand and had produced a pistol that he held with his other hand.
The third suspect was telling Mitch Wilkins not to move, but Wilkins did not listen. He fought back.
“He’s trying to push me back in there and I just advanced on him and grabbed him,” Wilkins said. “I didn’t have a great grip on him and he got his hand lose and hit me twice with his pistol in the head.”
Mitch Wilkins then forced the suspect to the ground where they continued to fight. During that time, several rounds were discharged and it remains unclear who fired, but Shirley Wilkins said the man holding her tried to shoot her son, Mitch, when he saw the two men hit the ground. Mitch Wilkins says the man he was fighting also fired, with one bullet going past his mother and into his desk.
At some point during the struggle, Mitch Wilkins says the suspect “decided things weren’t going as planned,” and decided to vacate the premises, jumping back over the counter and heading for the door. The other two suspects fled as well.
Mitch Wilkins shouted to his mom, “Get a gun! Get a gun!”
Shirley Wilkins handed him a gun and he fired three rounds toward the fleeing suspects, but he says he shot too high. It was only later that he realized the gun his mother handed him was not his, but the one the suspect had and apparently dropped as they struggled on the floor.
The trio might have thought they were free and clear when they fled the business where they underestimated the mild mannered jeweler and his elderly mother, but they were wrong. Justin Ivey, who works at Eickenhorst Funeral Directors in the same shopping center, happened to be on a smoke break after eating lunch.
Ivey says he always watches the parking lot during his smoke break, and he noticed the people going into the jewelry store but nothing looked unusual.
“All of a sudden I heard pow,pow, pow,” Ivey said, “To me it sounded like a gun but I wasn’t sure so I still was continuing smoking my cigarette, then I see the two run out of the store and she walked right in front of me and he took off the other way – right across the street.”
Ivey says he asked the female suspect, “Hey, what’s going on in there?” She told him “nothing” and claimed she was not in the jewelry store and didn’t know what was happening.
“I said, are you sure, cause I just saw you come out of there, and she just continued to walk,” Ivey said. “Then I saw Mr. Wilkins come out bleeding on the face, and I began to chase her because she was closest to me.”
He thought they had “unloaded on Mr. Wilkins” and was not about to let her get away.
By then, the woman was already at the end of the building and began running down Wilson Road. Ivey gave chase for blocks. Aware that he was in pursuit, the woman went through a church property and into a neighboring property where she tried to hide behind a shipping container. Ivey says he then slowed down because he thought he heard the click of a gun and feared she was waiting to shoot him. He went the other direction and circled around from the other side where he saw she had headed out again, now in a different shirt, and was jumping a fence. She got over the fence, he said, dumped her purse and continued run as Ivey gave chase. They ran to the next street, jumped another fence and continued until he finally got her cornered against the backside of some apartments. She stopped but said nothing and when the police reached them soon after, she laid on the ground and did not resist arrest.
Shirley Wilkins said what Ivey did was “wonderful and brave,” and she was glad he was there.
Assistant Chief Reynolds said members of the Precinct 2 Constable’s Office captured a second suspect and a third remains at large, as of this writing. The remaining suspect is described as a Hispanic male with short dark hair, wearing a beige shirt and beige pants.
After a little time to settle down and reflect on how calm and cool his mom was throughout the ordeal, Mitch Wilkins said his mother is “cool.” She was a school counselor, he said, and “has learned to put up with virtually all the bad behavior anyone can stomach.”
“I said I needed a gun and she handed me one,” he said. “These guys bit off more than they could chew.”
Wilkins also said the robbery was poorly planned, and the way they handled it was idiotic.
As for the possibility of being shot, he says “You don’t think about that. I wasn’t going to be robbed – that’s the size of it.”
“We win,” Mitch Wilkins said.
Watch for updates on our website at www.mccops.com