Robert Higginbotham, owner of Payson Jewelers, had just sat down with his family to enjoy a Valentine’s Day dinner when he got the call on his cell phone.
“We have reason to believe you will be held up by gunpoint at your store at 9:30 in the morning,” said Detective Michael McAnerny of the Payson Police Department.
McAnerny had begun investigating the case and discovered the plot to hold up the jewelry store involved one main suspect, said a press release from Payson PD.
Higginbotham said he’d never had a call like that before.
“You don’t sleep well after a call like that,” he said.
The Payson Police asked for permission to have two SWAT team members meet with the owner early in the morning to guard over the store. Higginbotham readily agreed.
Early the next morning, officers conferred with Higginbotham and set up in the parking lot and in the back of the store to wait for the crime.
“I knew the two guys who came to the store, but they wore full SWAT gear and carried guns — big guns,” said Higginbotham.
Payson Police had learned about the planned hit on the jewelry store from members of the community, said Police Chief Don Engler, but the police were not exactly sure of the day the thief would try to rob the store.
Payson SWAT team members and additional officers stationed in the parking lot watched monitors and everyone who entered the store on Feb. 15 and 16 to thwart the crime.
“The police had eyes on the store and in the back of the store,” said Higginbotham.
“We wanted to ensure the safety of jewelry store employees and customers,” said Engler.
After two days, the police called Higginbotham and told him the danger was not as imminent as they believed.
“Chief Engler said they had eyes on the guy,” said Higginbotham.
It took McAnerny another four weeks before he could catch Aaron Keith McCown Jr., a 26-year-old from California.
“We don’t know why he targeted Payson Jewelers,” said Engler, “He had no personal knowledge of the store owners.”
McCown had been in the Payson community for quite some time, said Engler.
The press release reported the investigation is ongoing to see if other subjects are involved.