Brazen daylight robbery in Manhattan

Two men tried to rob a watch store in New York City Tuesday afternoon, then traded gunfire with police officers before escaping in a pickup truck, according to police.

One of the store’s owners was slightly injured during the events that played out over several blocks in Manhattan at lunchtime and involved, briefly, the taking of a hostage, The New York Times reports.

Tuesday night, the police arrested Richard Lawlor, 39, a former convict, at his home in the West Village, investigator with knowledge of the case told the Times. Authorities were able to link the registration on the pickup truck to Lawlor’s residence. The police were still searching for his accomplice Tuesday.

In May 1992, Lawlor was questioned in connection with a robbery at Kennedy International Airport in which a guard was killed, the Times reports.

In October 1992, he was indicted with 13 other members of a so-called crash-and-carry gang, whose members would crash cars into luxury stores and snatch what they could, the Times reports.

It was the second time in two weeks that the store, Fossner Timepieces J & P, at 1057 Second Avenue, was a target, Jeff Morris, one of the owners, told the Times. Earlier this month, when he and his partner were away at a convention, two men with guns stole a tray of watches and about $100 in cash, he reportedly said.

It was not clear whether the two robberies were related, but the robbery yesterday was interrupted by police officers on patrol, and the two men did not get away with any valuables, the Times reports. Still, the brazen daylight robbery attempt shocked passers-by, and Morris’s voice was still shaking several hours later as he described what had happened.

About 1:30 p.m., two men rang the store’s bell, and were buzzed in, he reportedly said. Once inside, brandishing guns, the men told the four people they saw to get down on the floor. Morris, his partner’s sister and another employee did as they were told, but Peter Fossner, the other owner, resisted, Morris reportedly said. One of the robbers struck Mr. Fossner on the head.

Meanwhile, a man who had seen the two gunmen enter the store and thought they looked suspicious, flagged down a police patrol car, the police reportedly said.

As the officers entered the store and confronted one of the gunmen, the other man emerged from the back, with Morris in a headlock. “He used me as shield, with his gun,” Morris reportedly said. The officers backed out of the store and the robbers fled.

After a brief exchange of gunfire, the men made it to their car, a blue GMC pickup truck, and headed toward the Franklin D. Roosevelt Drive, where they dumped a gun, a bulletproof vest, and a police scanner, investigators reportedly said.

Police officers found the car on Montgomery Street in Lower Manhattan.