KENNEWICK — A home-invasion and jewelry store robbery earlier this month in Kennewick shocked Tri-Citians, but it's not the first robbery of its kind in the Northwest.
Kennewick police have been working with investigators in the Portland area to see if similar heists there in 2009 and 2010 may be linked to the Touchstone Jewelers robbery, said Kennewick police spokesman Mike Blatman.
Three gunmen, apparently dressed like construction workers, went to Touchstone owner Mark Welsh's home Feb. 9, got inside and tied up his family.
They waited for Welsh to return home, then forced him to take them to the store.
After taking an undisclosed amount of jewelry, they took Welsh home and drove off in his truck, which was found abandoned a short time later. No one was hurt.
Similar incidents occurred in the Portland area Nov. 4, 2009, when Ari Diamonds in Washington County was held up, and on March 25, 2010, when La Rog Brothers jewelry store in Clackamas was robbed.
Since the Touchstone heist, Kennewick police have been working with the Oregon investigators to try to identify suspects.
Kennewick police Wednesday released sketches of two suspects from the Touchstone robbery. They coordinated release of the information to news organizations in Oregon with West Linn police, Blatman said.
One suspect is described as a Hispanic man, 25-35 years old, around 5-foot-8 and 150 pounds.
He was described as having a baby face appearance and a lighter complexion, with dark brown eyes and freckles under both eyes, including a prominent one under his left eye.
The suspect spoke with a slight Spanish accent but spoke "excellent" English, and was described as a "smooth talker" with "people skills."
The second suspect also is described as a Hispanic man, 25-35 years old, but about 5-foot-10 and weighing 200-215 pounds. He has a dark complexion, mustache, dark medium-length hair, and he spoke Spanish.
There is no sketch for the third suspect, but he is described as being in his late teens or early 20s, about 6-foot-2, with a thin build. He also walked with a bent-over posture, police said.
The first and second suspects wore new-looking tan work boots. Their boots and other items, including white hard hats, orange construction vests, zip ties and a red backpack might recently have been stolen or purchased, police said.
The suspects might have ties to the Portland area and could be driving a light colored, boxy, four-door sedan similar to a Chrysler 200.
Officials now say they don't believe there is a link to the January robbery of a Wapato pawn shop.
Business owners have been urged to take safety precautions to keep their businesses and families safe. They can call Blatman, who also is Kennewick police's crime prevention specialist, for information at 582-1351.
A reward of up to $5,000 has been offered by Welsh for information leading to the arrest of the Touchstone suspects, Blatman said.
La Rog's owners also are offering a reward of up to $5,000 for information leading to the arrests of the suspects involved in their robbery.
Tri-Cities Crime Stoppers also offers a reward of up to $1,000 for arrests.
A tipster could collect all three rewards if the suspect arrested was involved in both robberies. Tips must be called in to Crime Stoppers to be eligible for the Crime Stoppers reward.
Anyone with information about the suspects can call Kennewick police Detective Dan Long at 585-1325 or through the non-emergency dispatch line at 628-0333.
Anonymous calls also can be made to Tri-Cities Crime Stoppers at 586-8477 or www.tricitiescrimestoppers.org.
* Paula Horton: 509-582-1556; email@example.com