Crime

Gunmen rob Kennewick jewelry store, invade home

KENNEWICK — A brazen armed robbery left a Kennewick family tied up in their home Wednesday night while masked suspects forced a jeweler to take them to his store so they could steal its merchandise.

No one was injured in the home-invasion robbery. No suspects have been identified.

"Other than the emotional and mental shake-up, everybody is physically OK," said Kennewick police Detective Sgt. Randy Maynard.

A handwritten sign on the door of Touchstone Jewelers informed customers the store was closed Thursday "due to a family emergency."

"Obviously this is not something that Kennewick or the Tri-Cities experiences on a regular basis at all," Maynard said. "It's taxing on resources, but we're working through it. ... We're hoping to come up with some answers in the next day or two."

The robbery began around 6:30 p.m. when three masked gunmen forced their way into a home in the 6300 block of West 15th Avenue and tied up two people inside, police said.

The home belongs to Mark Welsh, co-owner of Touchstone.

The suspects waited for two other residents, including Welsh's wife, to get home and held them against their will, police said.

When Welsh arrived, the robbers forced him to take them to his jewelry store at Marineland Village on Clearwater Avenue.

After stealing an undisclosed amount of jewelry and other merchandise, they took Welsh back home and took off in his pickup, police said.

The truck later was found dumped at Ninth and South Joliet streets in west Kennewick.

The suspects reportedly cut phone lines at Welsh's house, so the family went across the street to a neighbor's home to call 911. Maynard said the robbery was reported at 8:38 p.m.

The almost two-hour ordeal clearly shook up the family and left neighbors making sure their doors and windows were locked. One neighbor, who didn't want to be identified, said their street usually is quiet and safe, but hearing what happened and seeing officers at the Welsh house all day "upsets your peace of mind."

Investigators were out until midnight, then returned at 7 a.m. Thursday and spent the day interviewing witnesses, tracking leads and collecting evidence.

"I've got every resource I can muster," Maynard said. "We've got three different scenes we're trying to process. It's very resource-intensive."

Kennewick police once again sought assistance from the Washington State Patrol crime lab technicians to help gather evidence. Four members of the WSP Crime Scene Response Team spent all day Tuesday in Kennewick sifting through mud at Duffy's Pond where skeletal remains of an unidentified man were found.

Patrol officers were stationed outside Welsh's home and the jewelry store while investigators worked inside. They left Welsh's two-story house at 5 p.m. Thursday, then moved on to the store.

"We do things slow and methodical because we only have one time to process the scene and do it right and hold people accountable," Maynard said.

Last month, three masked men burst into the home of a Wapato pawn shop owner, held his wife and children hostage and forced him to drive two gunmen to the store, while the third stayed behind with the family, according to the Yakima Herald-Republic.

The suspects got cash and jewelry from the pawn shop, then drove its owner back home and fled in his vehicle, which was later found outside Wapato, the newspaper said.

It's not known if there's any link between the two robberies.

* Paula Horton: 509-582-1556; phorton@tricityherald.com

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