Arthur M. Lewis may be elderly, but criminals are learning the North Palm Beach man is no easy mark.
The 89-year-old decorated World War II veteran foiled an armed robbery attempt Saturday afternoon at his Lake Park jewelry business that left a 44-year-old suspect with six gunshot wounds, but no loot.
Lewis was working behind the counter at The Jewelry Exchange at 900 N. Federal Highway when he was approached by a gun-wielding man around 3 p.m., according to an arrest report from the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office. Lewis said he immediately grabbed the suspect’s revolver and pulled out a .38-caliber handgun from his own pocket.
The two men wrestled for several minutes and fired shots at each other. Despite battling someone half his age, Lewis got the best of it. A man identified by the sheriff’s office as Lennard Patrick Jervis, a Miramar resident, was shot six times by Lewis, including four times in the chest. Lewis’ left arm was grazed by a bullet, but he was otherwise unscathed.
No one else was in the store at the time.
“I thought he was going to kill me as soon as I saw the gun,” Lewis told The Palm Beach Post on Monday afternoon. “I thought, ‘This time, I’m dead.’ ”
Saturday was not the first time Lewis has traded gunfire with would-be robbers.
On Jan. 5, 2010, Brandon Jerard Johnson, 20, of Riviera Beach was arrested on charges of robbery with a firearm and attempted felony murder after he walked into The Jewelry Exchange and fired a shot point-blank at Lewis.
Lewis responded with five shots from his own gun, but no one was hurt.
“It’s a hazardous business,” said Lewis, who said he served in the Army and fought in the Pacific Theatre during WWII.
Although the 2010 incident was scary, Lewis said it didn’t compare to Saturday’s encounter.
Lewis said Jervis continued to fight with vigor, even with four gunshot wounds to the chest and one each to the wrist and leg. Large bullet holes remained in the store’s walls Monday and the area behind the counter where Lewis and Jervis fought hand to hand was trashed.
“People think because he’s 89, he’s frail,” said Vivien Bresnahan, Lewis’ girlfriend. “That irritates me because he’s anything but (frail).”
Jarvis eventually stumbled over the counter toward the front door and asked Lewis to buzz him out. Lewis complied.
“I was so glad to get rid of him,” said Lewis, who has been in business for 20 years. “I’d had enough of him.”
According to the sheriff’s office, Jervis left the scene in an SUV driven by Raven Simone Hill, a Miami resident. Hill told police that she picked up Jervis, who she referred to as “Dave,” after he was shot and was driving toward Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami. “But ‘Dave’ was dying,” so she stopped and asked for assistance from the Boca Raton Police Department, according to an arrest report.
Jervis was taken to Delray Medical Center and is expected to survive, sheriff’s spokeswoman Teri Barbera said.
Jervis will be arrested and taken to the Palm Beach County Jail once he recovers and is expected to face charges of armed robbery to a business, felon in possession of a firearm, aggravated battery with a deadly weapon, and armed burglary.
Court records show that Jervis has been arrested 20 times in Miami-Dade and Broward counties since 1989.
Hill, 23, is facing a charge of armed robbery for driving the getaway car. She was booked into the Palm Beach County Jail late Saturday and was released Sunday morning on her own recognizance.