Man suspected in Kent attempted armed robbery of jewelry store dies from gunshot wound

A masked man armed with a handgun enters Bonaci Fine Jewelers in Kent on the morning of May 4. - COURTESY PHOTO
A masked man armed with a handgun enters Bonaci Fine Jewelers in Kent on the morning of May 4.
— image credit: COURTESY PHOTO

A man suspected of an attempted armed robbery that included the exchange of gunshots last week at a Kent jewelry store was found dead in Auburn from a gunshot wound.

The investigation remains open as Kent Police continue to determine the details of the gunfire exchange between the store owner and an armed man during the 10:45 a.m. Saturday, May 4 attempted robbery at Bonaci Fine Jewelers. The store is at the corner of East Smith Street and Central Avenue North.

The dead man has been identified as Delearance Fleming, 36, by the King County Medical Examiner's Office. He died of a gunshot wound to the torso, according to a Medical Examiner's Office spokeswoman. He is from Norwalk, Calif., according to police.

Detectives will send bullets to the Washington State Patrol crime lab to match the bullet found in the dead man with the gun fired by the store owner. Crime results can take weeks to get back.

"We are 99 percent certain," Police Chief Ken Thomas said during a phone interview about whether Fleming was the man involved in the armed robbery. "We are waiting for evidence from the crime lab to match ballistics and confirm the gun."

Two customers and two employees were in the store when a man entered the store armed with a gun.

"He came in with a gun and wearing a mask and there was an exchange of gunfire between the business owner and the suspect," Thomas said. "The suspect then ran out of the store."

A few hours later, police found a man dead from a gunshot would on a bench near an Auburn business. Thomas said it is unknown how the man ended up in Auburn or if he might have had anyone else who helped him get away from the store.

"We're investigating that possibility," Thomas said.

Officers who first arrived at the jewelry store learned that a man had entered the store with a gun in his hand, confronted the owner who was armed and gunshots were fired. The man then ran out of the store and fled in an unknown direction. It was unknown if he continued on foot or left in a vehicle. He was armed with a handgun.

Police did not release information earlier this week about the dead body found in Auburn until detectives figured out it appeared to be the same man suspected in the robbery. Thomas said detectives needed to be sure the man wasn't connected to a separate shooting.

Thomas said it remains to be determined exactly how many shots were exchanged at the jewelry store but the armed man fired at least one shot. Police used interviews with witnesses and video evidence to help figure out details of the shooting.

"I'm just happy innocent citizens were not injured based on the dangerous actions of an armed robbery suspect," Thomas said.

Once detectives finish the case, they will turn over the information to the King County Prosecuting Attorney's Office, which will make the final decision about whether to file any charge against the jewelry store owner.

"Self defense will be considered," Thomas said. "Prosecutors make the filing decision."

According to state law, it is considered justifiable homicide when "there is reasonable ground to apprehend a design on the part of the person slain to commit a felony or to do some great personal injury to the slayer or to any such person, and there is imminent danger of such design being accomplished."

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