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Authorities offer reward in robbery

Photo by Howard Reed

Photo by Howard Reed

COVINGTON -- A reward of up to $5,000 is offered for information leading to the arrests and convictions of three masked men who held up a pawn shop at gunpoint Thursday and stole more than 30 firearms.

The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives announced Friday the reward in connection with the heist at Direct Gold Outlet, a federally licensed gun dealer located at 11230B Ga. Highway 36, at the intersection with County Road 213. The ATF is working jointly with the Newton County Sheriff's Office in the investigation.

ATF Special Agent Richard Coes said investigators initially believed that four black men were responsible for the robbery; however, he said further investigation has led them to believe that three men carried out the crime.

"We are almost certain that two of them are black, but they are not sure about the third," Coes said.

He added that descriptions of the suspects are hampered by the fact that they were all masked and wore gloves.

The robbery was reported about 12:40 p.m. Thursday, when the lone female store clerk called 911.

According to reports, the suspects entered the store, held the clerk at gunpoint, bound her at the rear of the store and then smashed glass display cases. More than 30 guns -- both long guns and handguns -- were stolen, according to reports.

Coes said the clerk was slightly injured in the incident, but declined to elaborate on her injuries, which he said were not life-threatening.

NCSO Lt. Mark Mitchell said Thursday that the suspects got away in a late-model white, four-door vehicle, possibly a Toyota or Nissan.

"The last direction of travel was north on Highway 36," Mitchell said.

Coes said the public's help is important in solving this crime.

"Once you get guns stolen, you have that nefarious element in our community that will grab them up," he said. "People with a criminal record are not allowed to legally purchase a firearm, so this is a means for them to get their hands on firearms, which increases the chance of violence in our community."

Anyone with information that would help investigators identify the suspects involved and locate any or all of the stolen firearms is asked to call the ATF's toll-free 24-hour hotline at 888-ATF-TIPS (888-283-8477).

Tips also can be given to the NCSO at 678-625-1400. Tips can be given anonymously at 678-625-5007 or through the website at www.newtonsheriffga.org and clicking on "anonymous tips." Those who want a response from NCSO personnel should leave contact information.