Debate Rages After Jeweler Shoots Fleeing Robber

There is little disagreement as to the terrible events that occurred on Dec. 13 at a Sunrise Beach, Fla., jewelry store, but opinions vary about what should happen now.

According to a video posted by the Martin County Sheriff’s Office and press accounts, on that day, a teen came into local jeweler Treasure Coast Liquidators and asked to see some rings. He put three on his fingers. When a saleswoman told him he couldn’t try them all on at once, he verbally threatened her, then ran out of the store with the rings on.

Another employee standing outside saw the teen running out the door with something in his hand. He realized what was happening, and tried to snatch the jewelry from him. The suspect fought him off and jumped into an SUV, which was later discovered to be stolen.

As the SUV was leaving, the store’s owner, Michael Dacey, a retired New York City policeman, saw the fight outside, took out his gun, and fired one round at the vehicle. At least one shot hit the first suspect, Jakeem McMillan, 17, in the head, and caused the vehicle to crash. McMillan is now on life support.

The driver, alleged to be John Clark, 16, fled on foot. He was later apprehended and has reportedly given a full confession. The two face charges of robbery and grand theft auto, reports said.

But some have suggested that the jeweler might also face legal issues—given that he shot at a fleeing suspect.

For the moment, criminal charges don’t appear likely. Martin County Sheriff William Snyder was quoted by TCPalm.com as saying, “We have no intention, as of now, based on the evidence we have, of making an arrest… [The jeweler was] well within the scope of using justifiable force during the commission of a forcible felony.

“You’re in a situation, you’re trying to make a decision, and things are happening fast, adrenaline is pumping,” he added. “We have to step back as investigators and try to get into the mind of the person who fired the gun.”

In another interview, he said that Dacey was worried about the safety of his store worker.

Many on social media have hailed as Dacey a hero, saying he was just protecting himself and his store and the suspect deserved what he got.

One person took issue with the media’s descriptions of the two suspects as “teens.”

“I don’t know of anyone that is being robbed that will say hold up, I need to see your ID before I decide if I need to protect my life or not. They robbed a store, the employee felt that his or her life was in danger and shot.”

But others said that the store was no longer in peril and expressed concern about shoot-outs occurring in the middle of a public parking lot.

““If you look [at the video], there is a vehicle directly in the line of fire when [the jeweler] shot,” wrote one person. “[He] easily could have killed an innocent person. At the very least his actions are reckless.”

Wrote another: “The two teens are clearly in the wrong, and deserved to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. If the store owner then chased them down while fleeing, he went from victim to victim [and] criminal. EVERY conceal and carry training will stress not to chase after someone. Property can be replaced, people not so much. No amount of property is worth losing my life, or having to live with taking a life.”

The Jewelers’ Security Alliance (JSA) declined comment on this particular case, as it is still under investigation.

JSA president John Kennedy notes that “the usual legal standard is that it is unlawful to fire at a felon fleeing from a crime scene when the crime has been completed and the risk of danger has passed.… In a number of these cases, the jeweler has faced both criminal charges and a costly lawsuit for civil damages.”

He adds that there have been many cases where jewelers intended to shoot a criminal and ended up killing or hurting an innocent bystander.

The JSA as well as Jewelers Mutual recommend that jewelers not resist robberies, arguing that complying with the robber’s wishes is the safest option for everyone in the store. They also discourage the use of guns in stores, other than by trained, armed security guards.

JCK examined how jewelers look at the gun issue here and here. Fifty tips for keeping a jewelry store safe from robberies can be seen here.

(Image from Yelp)

JCK News Director