Employee injured while chasing down jewelry thief

Evan Axelbank reports

- A jewelry store clerk is fighting for his life after trying to stop a man who ran away with nearly $25,000 worth of jewelry.

Deputies say Jean Celestin was run over by the crook at the Brandon Town Center Mall after clinging to the car's hood.

Surveillance video from inside Mirage Diamonds on Tuesday evening shows a still unknown man with a dark blue hat and top.

"It was just like a normal customer," said Larry McKinnon of the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office.

He asks for help in trying on a gold bracelet, then a gold necklace.

"He was acting like he was interested in purchasing the jewelry," said McKinnon.

Three minutes into the encounter, just after Celestin lines up the mirror, the man bolts. Celestin makes a fateful decision: to chase. Stunned customers watch as an employee appears to trip an alarm.

Seconds later, deputies say Celestin jumped onto the getaway vehicle's hood, held on until it got nearly out of the mall parking lot, then was thrown off and run over.

He has life threatening injuries. Deputies want to find that silver Chevrolet Camaro.

"[Celestin is] a person trying to make a living, an honest living that got hurt by a criminal," McKinnon said.

As Celestin fights for his life, the jewelry store remained closed Wednesday. Deputies said they were devastated for him and his family, but urged others to comply when faced with a smiliar situation.

"Just be a good witness," said McKinnon. "Write down a description, write down a tag number, we can go look at cameras [and] surveillance, but nothing out there is worth your life."

Deputies say the thief will only get pennies on the dollar on the street for the $25,000 worth of jewelry he stole.

"We hope the public can identify him and we can make an arrest and help bring this guy to justice," said McKinnon.

Deputies describe the suspect a black male, approximately 6’1 and 25-30 years of age.  He had a trimmed beard and wore a dark blue hat, black t-shirt, and dark long pants and black shoes. 

He was last seen getting onto I-75 North in a silver newer model silver Chevrolet Camaro.

Anyone with information about this case is asked to call Crimestoppers at 1-800-873-TIPS. Callers can remain anonymous, and may be eligible for a reward. Reports can also be made anonymously online at www.crimestopperstb.com.

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