Mastermind behind deadly smash-and-grab at La Jolla jewelry stores recommended for parole

Alton Pierce convicted for 1992 murder, robbery

SAN DIEGO - A family is outraged after the man convicted in a deadly La Jolla jewelry store robbery is recommended for early release.

On Mother's Day in 1992, six armed men dressed in black like ninjas simultaneously stormed into two jewelry stores on Prospect Street in La Jolla.

It was a coordinated smash-and-grab. A display case was shattered during the holdup and customer Brian Sullivan was killed. Sullivan was shot in the head as he turned towards the commotion, and his murder devastated his loved ones.

Sullivan's sister, Nancy Dowell, told 10News, "It did. You just can't get by the violent nature of something like that."

Authorities said the mastermind behind the La Jolla incident was Alton Pierce, a convicted felon living in Los Angeles.

Deputy District Attorney Jim Koerber recalled, "Alton Pierce and his crew thought San Diego was a sleepy little town and it'd be easy pickings."

Los Angeles was tightened down because of rioting, so Pierce and his men stole two cars and headed south to La Jolla.

Koerber continued, "These two separate crews -- three in each crew -- stormed into both jewelry stores, terrified people."

Dowell added, "They had to know they were probably going to use those guns. They should pay for what they did."

The others involved in the robberies are still incarcerated, while Pierce, who's been a model prisoner at Corcoran, was given a release date at his first parole hearing.

Koerber said, "I've never had an inmate get parole at his first hearing."

He was stunned, and he wasn't alone.  

"I think the inmate's attorney was surprised from the look I saw on his face," Koerber added.

Sullivan's brother-in-law, Dave Markham, who testified by phone at the hearing, voiced disappointment that an inmate's behavior in prison should outweigh the severity of the crime.

"There's no Brian, no fairness, no life there on the victim's side; just doesn't seem to match; missing a sense of justice in the world," said Markham.

Gov. Jerry Brown still has to approve Pierce's release, and an appeal is likely.

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