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Terrified New York City diners caught up in a brazen robbery have described hearing a gunshot and screams as fears grow that the trend of holding diners up at gunpoint outside of restaurants that started in Los Angeles has spread to the Big Apple.
Two masked, armed men attacked outdoor diners at the high-end Upper East side restaurant Philippe Chow on Wednesday night. They stole one man's Rolex watch and shot a 28-year-old man on a first date in the leg when he tried to grab the robber's weapon.
Halley Wolowiec and Tamara Behan were eating outside at Le Bilboquet, across the street from Philippe Chow, when they heard a gunshot and glass breaking around 10pm.
'There was no mistaking that sound,' Wolowiec told ABC7.
'It was frightening because it was 20 feet away from us and it got very real, very quickly.'
She added that when she looked up she saw everyone running. She said that the restaurant opened its doors and ushered people inside to safety.
Wednesday night's shooting appears very similar to two other recent New York City robberies where diners leaving high-end restaurants were robbed of millions of dollars worth of jewelry. Both times the victims were approached by two men who escaped in a black Mercedes-Benz.
Last week in Los Angeles, a group of diners were robbed at gunpoint while sitting in the outdoor area of La Crème Café on Melrose Avenue, a popular shopping and dining area.
Halley Wolowiec (left) and Tamara Behan (right) were eating outside at Le Bilboquet, across the street from Philippe Chow when the armed robbery occurred
Police said a 28-year-old male victim was sitting outside the swanky establishment on East 60th Street when one of the men stepped up to his table minutes after 10 pm
A 31-year-old man was also approached at the restaurant at the same time when a masked man robbed him of his Rolex Stainless Steel Submariner watch
Police arrived on the scene late Wednesday night to recover the gun and watch surveillance footage of the armed robbery
After Wednesday night's incident, witness Tamara Behan pointed to how quickly her dinner on the Upper East Side turned into her life being threatened. 'It's absolutely scary when you think about how quickly it goes from being a nice night to literally you're saying could I get shot?'
She remembered looking at Wolowiec and thinking, 'Good God that could have gone into either one of us.'
The born and bred New Yorker was shaken up. 'You always hear about this stuff but you never think about it happening right behind you,' she said.
A hostess at the upscale Chinese restaurant who witnessed the altercation said: 'It was public in front of everybody.'
During Wednesday night's incident, the 28-year-old male victim shot in the leg was sitting outside on a first date at the swanky establishment on East 60th Street when one of the masked men stepped up to his table, according to police.
'(The robber) said, 'Hey, it's a stickup.' They wanted our jewelry,' the victim's date told the Daily News. 'My date started to fight him for the gun. He shot him. It was the left leg. It was our first date. I'm still in shock.'
The man refused the masked robber's demand for his watch and wrestled the man for his gun. He was shot in his left leg in the struggle.
Meanwhile, a second masked man approached another table and robbed 31-year-old diner of his Rolex Stainless Steel Submariner watch.
'There were two shots. Everybody came running in, screaming,' a witness told the New York Post. 'It's hard to believe it was a robbery. They were eating dinner out front. It looked like they were targeted. It's crazy.'
The armed robbery at Philippe Chow is the third armed robbery targeting New York City diners and their expensive jewelry in the past month
'(The robber) said, 'Hey, it's a stickup.' They wanted our jewelry,' the victim's date told the Daily News. 'My date started to fight him for the gun. He shot him. It was the left leg. It was our first date. I'm still in shock'
'There was shooting, and everybody screamed,' a maintenance worker told the New York Post. 'They ran and got scared and threw the gun on the floor, over there near the bottle on the sidewalk'
NYPD Lieutenant Lieutenant Thomas Antonetti told MailOnline that, after the 28-year-old was shot and his assailant relinquished the handgun, the victim managed to bring it inside the restaurant where it was recovered by police
NYPD Lieutenant Lieutenant Thomas Antonetti told DailyMail.com that, after the victim was shot the assailant dropped the handgun, and the victim managed to take it inside the restaurant where it was recovered by police.
Antonetti said the robbers, who are assumed to be in their 20s, fled the scene in a dark-colored SUV driven by a third party heading westbound. Police have surveillance video of the suspects and are searching for them.
The Post reported that the victim staggered, bleeding, out onto the sidewalk.
'One of the responding officers acquired a tourniquet to the shooting victim's leg so that when EMS responded, he was already in that elevated state of care,' Antonetti told MailOnline.
The shooting victim was coherent enough to speak with investigators before he was taken to Cornell Hospital, where he is currently in stable condition.
As of now, Antonetti said, there are no suspects or leads in the case.
'It was like a movie,' a maintenance worker who watched the men get out of the SUV from a nearby building told the Post. 'Two of them got out walking.'
Philippe, named after its celebrity executive chef Philippe Chow, is a favorite of Rihanna, Cardi B and Nicki Minaj
'It was like a movie,' a maintenance worker who watched the men get out of the SUV from a nearby building told the Post. 'Two of them got out walking'
A woman dining at Il Mulino next door described the chaos to the Post: 'There were two shots. Everybody came running in, screaming,' she said
This is not the first shooting incident at the upscale establishment: Tekashi69's bodyguard, Faheem Walter tussled with a bouncer at the establishment in 2018 after he and another member of the rapper's posse were turned away
'There was shooting, and everybody screamed,' the maintenance worker told the outlet. 'They ran and got scared and threw the gun on the floor, over there near the bottle on the sidewalk.'
This is not the first shooting incident at the upscale establishment: Tekashi69's bodyguard, Faheem Walter tussled with a bouncer at the establishment in 2018 after he and another member of the rapper's posse were turned away.
In retaliation, Walter hit one security guard over the head with a chair - the guard pulled out a handgun and shot Walter, who ultimately served 62 months in prison for gang violence for the incident, twice in the torso.
Philippe, named after its celebrity executive chef Philippe Chow, is a favorite of Rihanna, Cardi B and Nicki Minaj, according to The Standard.
Cardi B celebrated the release of her album 'Invasion of Privacy' there, according to published reports, over a slurry of margaritas. The swanky eatery, she's said, is her 'favorite restaurant in the world.'
Among popular menu items are the $85 peking duck special and a $16 red velvet fortune cookie.
The armed robbery and shooting on September 15 came a week after New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio bragged that the city experienced one of its safest Augusts on record.
De Blasio released last month's citywide crime statistics at a press conference on Tuesday, where he said crime in August 2021 dropped 5.4 per cent compared to the same time last year.
Crime in the city is also at one of its lowest levels since 1995, according to CompStat with 6,141 violent incidents compared to 1,979 in the year to date. Those incidents include, murder, rape, assault, burglary, larceny and grand theft auto.
But despite overall crime rates being down, New York City continues to see a surge in violent crimes in some areas, with murders up a whopping 60 per cent in the Bronx alone this year, compared to 2020.
New York City residents are becoming worried that these copycat robberies are being inspire by the string of armed robberies targeting diners that began in Los Angeles earlier this year.
On September 7, a group of diners were robbed at gunpoint while sitting in the outdoor area of La Crème Café on Melrose Avenue, a popular shopping and dining area.
The three diners were approached by an armed man who took their shopping bags and personal belongings in less than 20 seconds.
In February, there were reports of robberies of Rolex watches taken from people walking along the strip.
In March, three men pulled a gun on a couple walking after lunch and took the man's belongings, including a gold necklace, before fleeing in a car driven by a fourth suspect, according to KABC.
Last month, a store employee at Shoe Palace - just three blocks from the March robbery and seven blocks from Tuesday's robbery - was fatally shot after a dispute over a raffle.
Moment a man leaving a Manhattan nightspot is robbed of $4MILLION worth of jewelry by brazen thieves in a Mercedes-Benz
Police in New York City are hunting thieves who they say have been responsible for a pair of recent high-end jewelry heists in Manhattan, including one where a man leaving a restaurant was robbed of $4million worth of valuables.
According to the NYPD, at around 4.20am on August 14, a 47-year-old man and his 27-year-old companion had just walked out of the trendy TAO Downtown on 9th Avenue when they were accosted by a duo that got out of a Mercedes-Benz parked on the corner of West 30th Street and Broadway.
As seen in surveillance video released by the police, one of the occupants of the black Mercedes pulls a gun on the two men. The victims then remove and hand over various items of jewelry, which investigators said included chains, necklaces, rings, and a luxury Richard Mille watch, which was worn by the 47-year-old man.
One of the men displays a gun and demands the the 47-year-old man and his 27-year-old companion hand over their necklaces, rings and watches
Police in NYC are looking for two robbers who stole $4million worth of jewelry from a 47-year-old man near the trendy TAO Downtown eatery in Manhattan. This images from CCTV video shows the crooks approaching the victim and his companion on August 14
The thieves fled in this black Mercedes-Benz with a lit-up emblem
The August 14 incident took place after the two victims had walked out of TAO Downtown
Timepieces from the luxury Swiss watchmaker range in price from $80,000 to several million dollars.
The thieves got away with $4million worth of baubles belonging to the 47-year-old man, and they also pilfered a $10,000 medallion necklace from his younger companion. Neither victim was harmed.
Laden with their high-priced loot, the crooks climbed back into their getaway car and fled southbound on Broadway toward West 28th Street and turned left toward 5th Avenue, according to police.
Less than a week later, just after 1am on August 19, a 34-year-old man was walking towards Broadway after leaving Pergola restaurant on West 28th Street when, just like during the first heist, a black Mercedes-Benz pulled over, two men exited the vehicle and robbed the late-night reveler at gunpoint.
This time, the bandits plundered a Cuban necklace, a tennis bracelet and a high-end Audemar watch, with a total value of $100,000.
The larcenists were last seen escaping in their black Mercedes-Benz, heading southbound on Broadway and turning right onto West 27th Street en route to 6th Avenue.
Police are asking for the public's help in identifying the two thieves. One of them has been described as a man with a dark complexion, 5 feet tall and weighing 140lbs. His accomplice was said to be a man with a medium complexion, standing at 5 feet, 2 inches in height and weighing 140lbs.
The getaway vehicle seen on surveillance video was a black Mercedes-Benz with an illuminated emblem on the front, five-point star rims and tinted windows. It was being driven by a third unknown person.
Like in the first heist, the thieves got out of the Mercedes-Benz and displayed a gun
On August 19, the same two crooks accosted a 34-year-old man near Pergola restaurant in Manhattan, and stole $100,000 worth of high-end baubles
This time, the stolen property include a tennis bracelet and a high-end Audemar watch