A 53-year-old Kenner man being chased by deputies investigating the armed robbery of an upscale menswear store in Metairie on Wednesday morning died later in the day after jumping off a bridge in St. John the Baptist Parish, according to authorities.
That man, Ron Walker, was a suspect in the robbery of Jeff's Haberdashery, Jefferson Parish Sheriff Joseph Lopinto said Thursday.
Deputies arrested a second suspect in the robbery, 36-year-old George Simon, at the end of the car chase — personnel at the store recognized him as a regular customer from over the years, and he had a history of stealing from businesses, Lopinto said. He faces counts including armed robbery.
Simon's stepson, Tahjavon Boatman, 20, was in the car at the center of the pursuit. Deputies jailed him on allegations of running from police, but they did not suspect him of partaking in the stick-up.
A pair of men wielding a military-style rifle burst into a men's clothing store in Metairie late Wednesday morning and stole upscale shirts, s…
Simon and Boatman survived the same 30-foot leap off the bridge that Walker took.
The robbery at Jeff's Haberdashery occurred about 10 a.m. Wednesday. The two robbers, one of whom had a rifle resembling an AK-47, forced a customer and two employees to lie on the floor while they picked out shirts, shoes and jeans from upscale brands, Lopinto said.
There were 29 bullets in the rifle. The store estimated that the robbers grabbed as much as $60,000 in merchandise before fleeing.
With the help of a tip to Crimestoppers, deputies investigating the robbery soon determined that Simon was staying at a home in a cul-de-sac in Belle Terre's Live Oak Landing, St. John Sheriff Mike Tregre said.
St. John deputies then monitored the home at the request of Lopinto's office, who had obtained a warrant to arrest Simon. Deputies saw him get into a black Infiniti with two other people and leave.
Several St. John deputies pulled the Infiniti over, surrounding it as the lights on their cruisers flashed. But the driver mashed the accelerator and sped off, kicking off a wild pursuit, Tregre said.
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Tregre said the Infiniti took St. Andrews Boulevard to Belle Terre Boulevard, sideswiping one bystander's car. The driver turned left as if he was going to head toward West Airline Highway but then immediately cut right into a Belle Terre gas station called the Corner Store, where deputies tried to box the Infiniti in.
But the Infiniti managed to elude the trap, plowing through vacant property nearby to get back on Belle Terre and head north toward Interstate 10. Tregre said the driver veered into the oncoming traffic lanes before reaching the eastbound span of I-10, with deputies pursuing him.
Tregre said the Infiniti reached speeds of about 100 mph on I-10, where deputies awaited near the exit for U.S. 51.
But eventually, an earlier motorcycle crash in the area slowed up traffic, prompting the Infiniti's driver to travel up the roadway's shoulder.
The Infiniti then crashed into at least two bystanders' cars as well as the back of an 18-wheeler, and the three people inside got out and jumped over the elevated roadway's railing to the ground below.
Deputies caught Boatman and Simon underneath the highway before they could escape. As they approached Walker, deputies noticed he was hurt badly, Tregre said.
They drove him to a local hospital, but he died there, Tregre said.
Tregre on Thursday said the consequences for Walker and Simon were of their own doing.
"These guys were not going to stop at all," Tregre said. "We gave them every opportunity to surrender."
Attempts to contact the suspects' families on Thursday weren't successful.
Lopinto said he was glad his agency probed the robbery aggressively.
"We prevent crime in Jefferson Parish by solving crime quickly," Lopinto said. "So we don't have a robbery later in the same manner with the same suspects."
Lopinto said investigators obtained a confession from Simon that outlined his and Walker's roles in the hold-up. While searching Simon's home and car, they found the rifle used in the robbery as well as most of the colorful shirts, shoes and jeans that were stolen.
The rifle had 29 bullets, Tregre said.
Wednesday was not the first time Simon had been suspected of stealing from a store in Metairie, metro area court records show.
He pleaded guilty to charges that he tucked two pairs of sunglasses worth $680 into his waistband and tried to walk out with them while at Solstice Sunglasses at Lakeside Mall, whose northern boundary is across the street from Jeff's Haberdashery.
A deputy providing security at the mall stopped him that day in May 2014, and he eventually received a two-year sentence.
He received a similar sentence after admitting he took two motorcycle tires off the shelf of D&L Powersports in Harvey and tried to leave without paying in 2009 before he was caught and arrested.
His most serious conviction came after he was arrested in 2000 on counts of armed robbery, attempted armed robbery and attempted murder. He pleaded guilty to attempted murder and received a 10-year prison sentence.
Authorities in St. Bernard charged him last year with unauthorized use of a movable, careless operation of a car, and driving without a license or without license plates. He pleaded guilty in May and was given two years in prison with credit for time served.
Walker also had a history of theft, records suggest.
He spent four years in prison after he pleaded guilty to that crime in New Orleans in 1997 and prosecutors moved to have him punished as a repeat offender.
Other convictions, in Jefferson Parish, include domestic abuse, marijuana possession, and aggravated flight from police. The last of those convictions stemmed from a guilty plea in a case that involved allegations of driving without a license.
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