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Suspects in Clothing Store Robbery Named, Including Suspect Who Fell to His Death

As a follow-up to a report that appeared last week in the March 8 issue of the LPM Insider: a Louisiana man has been charged with armed robbery in the holdup at a high-end Metairie, LA, clothing store that led to a police pursuit Wednesday night that left one man dead and two others in custody.

George Simon, 36, faces more charges in the case, said Joseph Lopinto, Jefferson Parish interim sheriff, at a news conference Thursday (March 8). According to officials, Simon confessed to the robbery and named his accomplice as Ron Walker, 53, who died after he jumped from an Interstate 10 overpass during Wednesday’s police chase. A third man in the car, Simon’s stepson, 20-year-old Tahj Boatman, was not involved in the robbery, Lopinto said, but faces less serious charges in connection with the police chase.

Both Simon and his stepson were injured in the chase, with Simon suffering a dislocated hip, officials said. Simon received treatment at a local hospital before he was booked into the St. John the Baptist Parish jail. The two robbery suspects entered Jeff’s Haberdashery in Metairie, just after it opened around 10 a.m. Wednesday, authorities said.

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The robbers ordered two staffers and a customer to the ground as they grabbed armfuls of expensive merchandise, including shirts that retail at $400 to $500, an employee said.  The stolen merchandise is valued at roughly $60,000, officials said Thursday, as they displayed some of the recovered clothing, along with an assault-style rifle used in the robbery.  Store employees told investigators that they recognized Simon from visits to the haberdashery during the past few years, Lopinto said. Simon has a criminal history that includes thefts targeting high-end retail stores. Many of his prior arrests have been on drug and battery charges, but he was also booked in the 1990s with an attempted first-degree murder, Lopinto said. The police pursuit began after the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office received a “very specific” Crimestoppers tip that led them to identify Simon as a suspect and sparked the U.S. Marshals Service, at the request of JPSO, to set up surveillance at Simon’s home on West Oak Point Court in LaPlace, Lopinto said.  One of the robbery victims also identified Simon as a suspect, helping authorities to obtain an arrest warrant for Simon within seven hours of the crime, Lopinto said.

At Simon’s home, authorities saw three men leave the house and get into a black Infiniti, which St. John the Baptist Sheriff’s deputies then tried to pull over. However, the driver didn’t stop, prompting the deadly chase that followed, authorities said. During Thursday’s news conference, officials identified Simon as the driver. Authorities also released video footage of the initial attempt at a traffic stop in St. John the Baptist Parish.

By then, the investigation had grown to involve several law-enforcement agencies, including the U.S. Marshals Service. The pursuit went through a neighborhood, with the Infiniti traveling at 50 to 60 mph through residential areas and driving against traffic, and onto I-10, where the Infiniti ran into traffic congestion caused by an unrelated car crash, officials said.  The Infiniti then began driving — minus a tire, which blew out when the car hit a curb, forcing the vehicle to travel at high speeds on a rim — on the shoulder of I-10 until the intersection with U.S. 51, where the car collided into an eighteen-wheeler.

The three men then abandoned the vehicle, hopping an Interstate guardrail before jumping from the elevated roadway, falling about 30 to 35 feet to the ground below, Lopinto said. Though Ron Walker was taken to the hospital, he died from his injuries, officials said. “Mr. Walker received numerous injuries when he fell to the ground and was in critical condition,” Lopinto said. Though incapacitated from his fall, Walker still resisted officers, who saw Walker’s condition deteriorate and tried to save his life, St. John the Baptist Sheriff Mike Tregre said during the news conference. “I’m just thankful no one else got killed last night, because there was a number of citizens on the road, traffic was gridlocked,” Tregre said. “They put a number of people in jeopardy.” [Source: The Times – Picayune]

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