Deputies continue investigation at Alamo jewelry store

December 4, 2009 6:36:24 PM PST
Investigators are trying to piece together what led to a shoot out last night in a jewelry store, but the two people who know exactly what went down cannot talk since they are in critical condition.

Sheriff's deputies say Thomas Bennett has been charged with attempted murder and robbery, even though at the same time, investigators say they still are not sure exactly what happened or if robbery was even the motive. However, for the time being, nothing has been ruled out.

Deputies say jewelry store owner Oscar Herrera and the man accused of shooting him, 50-year-old Alamo resident Thomas Bennett, are both in critical condition after surgery for their gunshot wounds.

"The store owner has sustained gunshot wounds to the abdomen, chest area and the other individual has gunshot wounds to the wrist, to his neck, and the jaw area," said Contra Costa County Sheriff's Capt. Daniel Terry.

The shootout happened at about 7:15 p.m. on Thursday in Herrera's Alamo Jewelry Mart. Deputies say Herrera was taken to the hospital immediately, but the wounded Bennett crouched in a corner of the shop threatening to kill himself for an hour. Investigators say he owns multiple guns, but it is unclear how many he used that night.

Bullets shattered the store's window and pierced the walls across the hall from the store. One went through a ladies room stall and another bullet came trough Ellen Hauskin's office wall. She says it was a fluke that she wasn't there last night.

"It makes me obviously wary that we have a jewelry store next to a professional office and hopefully nothing like this would happen again," said Hauskins.

Still, investigators say they don't yet know who shot first or if Bennett was after the jewelry. Nothing was taken. Bennett owns a construction company and deputies say the two men had prior contact with each other at least once.

"We're in the process right now of interviewing witnesses and trying to piece together the exact sequence of events to determine what happened and the possible motive in the case," said Terry.

Alamo resident Phil Baffert is a customer who says Herrera has fixed his clock and his wife's glasses. He says Herrera is a friendly, well-liked merchant. Baffert came to the store on Friday because he's worried about him.

"I hope everything comes out okay and we pray for him and Oscar if you're watching [this], I hope you get well right away," said Baffert.

Investigators say they are talking to witnesses, but will not say if they were in the store in the moments leading up to the shooting.


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