Originally created 05/01/06

State frees store robber

Parole has come to the last of three men who robbed a Broad Street jewelry store in 1978, taking jewels, kidnapping store employees and crashing their getaway car after a shootout with police.

The daring daylight holdup Jan. 19, 1978, earned each of the men three consecutive life sentences.

Last week, Arthur L. Irwin, 53, was the last to be paroled. After spending 28 years behind bars, he was released and has moved to Macon, Ga., officials say.

Before earning his release, Mr. Irwin spent six months at a transitional center, said Kim Patton-Johnson, a spokeswoman for the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles.

"The board feels that he has the skills to be a productive citizen with the transitional supervision that will be provided by the parole board," Ms. Patton-Johnson said.

"Mr. Irwin will be supervised closely on electronic monitoring, which will allow his parole officer to establish a schedule and keep track of Mr. Irwin's activities," she said.

Bill Beckum, who was running Millard Beckum Jewelry the day of the robbery, had little to say about Mr. Irwin's parole. He said he had read about Larry Ashley's parole in 2003. A third convict, Tony O. Mitcham, was paroled in 1993.

While he isn't protesting the paroles, Mr. Beckum said it was an extremely violent crime. During the robbery, he was knocked to the floor and a shot grazed his face.

The shot fired at employee Joyce Ware was aimed at her head, Mr. Beckum said. Both were herded out to Mr. Beckum's car and kidnapped.

"It wasn't an ordinary run-of-the-mill robbery," Mr. Beckum said last week.

According to court records and news accounts at the time of the robbery, the robbers also shot Augusta police Officer John W. Waller and stole his gun and police radio.

They got out of the store with their hostages and $47,201 in jewelry.

The police chased the robbers' getaway vehicle and fired several times after the car crashed into a billboard post at 15th and Reynolds streets, according to news reports.

Mr. Mitcham and Mr. Ashley were arrested near the accident scene. Mr. Irwin was captured about a half mile away.

He had a .38-caliber pistol with four spent cartridges in his pocket, according to a news article.

Reach Sandy Hodson at (706) 823-3226 or sandy.hodson@augustachronicle.com.


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