Tyrone D. Hunter, a 30-year-old resident of West 5th Street in St. Augustine, is facing a third-degree felony charge of robbery by snatching following the report of a theft of a $7,900 gold chain from Kay Jewelers in the Target shopping center in Palm Coast Tuesday (Oct. 6).
Hunter’s arrest is the sheriff’s office’s latest based in large part on technological investigative means–surveillance video, license plate readers, the sheriff’s Real Time Crime Center, and the dot-connecting of the elements and eyewitness accounts by a detective.
Hunter allegedly came into the store and asked store clerks about a gold chain and cross. The specific item he asked about wasn’t available. Clerks gave him a store catalogue to browse. Both store clerks described the man as extremely “shaky” during the encounter. After returning the catalogue, he looked at a case containing necklaces, asking about two of them in particular. One of the clerks took it out to show him. He asked to try it on. He was denied because of Covid rules, now common throughout the retail industry.
The man then “suddenly snatched the chain and display” from the store clerk’s hands and ran out of the store. He’d gone in at 3:18 p.m., ran out seven minutes later, according to surveillance footage that helped identify him.
The theft was quickly reported to the sheriff’s office, whose deputies took up positions in the shopping center and gathered eyewitness accounts about a Black man of slim build, wearing a white shirt with the word “Chief” on its front, neon yellow face covering, and a tattoo of cursive lettering above the eyebrows. A witness reported seeing the man run out of the jewelry store and soon after a red or maroon truck speeding out of the lot. Surveillance footage from Target linked the man who’d run out of Kay Jewelers to the man who’d gotten out of and back into the truck.
The alleged thief got away that day. The next day a detective worked with sheriff’s crime analyst Nikki North (at the agency’s Real Trime Crime Center), who confirmed the tag number of the truck. A store clerk told detective Joseph Costello, who worked the case, that the same man was allegedly seen at a Kay Jewelers in St. Augustine the same day of the theft, just before 2 p.m. From there, the detective traced the truck’s trajectory through license plate readers, which placed it in St. Johns around the time the man was seen at the St. Augustine store, near Target in Palm Coast at 3:29 p.m., and back in St. Johns just before 4 p.m.
Working with the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office, Costello then traced the truck’s ownership to Hunter’s father, meeting him and his wife at his home. “They stated their son Tyrone Hunter uses the red Nissan truck and resides in St. Augustine,” the arrest report states. Hunter’s father provided Costello with Tyrone Hunter’s phone number, and informed him a GPS device monitored the truck’s locations. When Costello spoke with Hunter, Hunter claimed he was set up by a friend, to whom he’d lent the truck the day of the theft. But employees at Kay Jewelers positively identified Hunter from a photo array.
Putnam County Sheriff’s deputies working with Costello located Hunter in Putnam and arrested him. He is at the Putnam jail, awaiting extradition. He has a long arrest record in Putnam dating back to 2009, much of it on burglary charges. In 2012 he was sentenced to four years in prison on a half dozen charges, four of them burglary charges, and was released at the end of 2014.
“This is a great example of how technology-led policing and good old fashion police work solve crimes,” Sheriff Rick Staly said. “This guy thought he could come into Flagler County and commit a robbery and get away with it. But thanks to the excellent work of our crime analysts and detectives we secured a warrant for his arrest.”
Kay Jewelers was the target of a robbery in August 2018 and, previously, in 2010. Tyrone Walker was arrested in the 2018 robbery. His case is still ongoing: he was to be arraigned in July, but failed to appear.