Two men first several shots at District police along M Street NW yesterday when they ran into a web of police cars as they came out of a jewelry store they had tried to rob, police reported.
The men had bungled the robbery moments before when the shopping bag they had loaded with their loot fell apart as they were on their way out of the jewelry store, police said.
Apparently panicking at the sight of the spilled jewels on the blue carpet of Diener-Jackman Jewelers, Inc., 1710 M St. NW, the men ran out of the store and into five police cars, police said.
The men began to fire their .32 caliber guns wildly at the sight of the police who had responded to the touch of a silent alarm in the jewelry store, police said.
Fleeing onto 17th Street with police in pursuit, including one off-duty police officer who had been in the store at the time of the 10-50 robber, the two men found another police car turning onto the sidewalk, and blocking their way, according to police.
Sliding to a stop on the icy sidewalk, one of the men fired two shots at the police car. The first shot ripped through the front grill on the car and punctured the car's radiator sending steam and noise from under the car's hood, according to police.
A second shot ricocheted off the hood of the blue and white police car, sped across the street and through a third story window in the National Geographic Society Building.
"I wasn't that scared," said Sgt. Gilbert Campos, one of the policemen who responded to the alarm. "I was just trying to get down, duck out of the way of the gunfire but I had the seat belt on."
Campos said he managed to get his head below the dashboard as the two robbers parted ways, one running through an alley to Connecticut Avenue and the other into the parking lot of the National Geographic Society Building.
"A couple of policemen jumped the fense to the parking lot with their guns drawn," said Steve Halpert, 14, who came out of his father's delicatessen on M street near 16th street with his cousin Avi Halpert, 12, when persons began to run into the store to get away from the gunfire along M Street.
"The policeman started looking behind snowpiles and the cars in the parking lot when they got over the fense," said Steve, who added that at least six police cars came rushing down M street as the police hunted for the man in the parking lot.
Meanwhile the second suspect was chased and captured by policewoman Patricia Lett and policeman Winston Stark. That suspect has run through an alley off 17th Street and was between K and L Streets when he was corned by the two officers.
Police charged Larry Thompson, 29, of 329 Rhode Island Ave, NE and Michael Jones, 30, of 640 Rock Creek Church Rd. NW with armed robbery after the incident.
Police said they fired no shots during the incident for fear of hitting passing persons.
"I knew just what was going down when I saw them come in the door," said Daniel Diener, one of the owners of the jewelry store. "I just couldn't get to the back of the store in time."
"They said get down or I'll kill you," Diener said as he sat in his store after having a drink to calm down. "Then they herded us in the back."
Diener said there were six or seven persons in the store when the men came in, including two or three customers.
He said the men robbed the persons in the store and took some of their personal possessions with them when they left the store.
"The police did one hell of a good job," Diener said. "They were cool. They didn't rush into the store they waited until the guys had left before they did anything. They saved our lives."