A lone burglar broke into the store early Nov. 17, sneaking around graveyard shift employees during their lunch hour. With dark gloves and his face shrouded by his hooded sweatshirt, the man made his way to the gun section. He used a crowbar to crack into the back of the display case.
He then stole 30 Beretta and Ruger handguns, some distinctly colored pink, purple and maroon.
In the weeks since, Snohomish police have arrested the man suspected of the burglary and rounded up several others who they believe knowingly bought the stolen weapons. With street names of "Bouya" and "Trigg," they've allegedly been wheeling and dealing in guns for heroin, methamphetamine and greenbacks.
"They have their own network and they know how to off-load," Snohomish police Chief John Flood said. "Guns are hot right now. The crooks are talking. They are smart enough to know, 'I've got to get rid of this thing.'"
Flood credited solid police work and communication among detectives and patrol officers -- along with the burglary suspect's return to the scene of the crime -- with cracking the case.
Store surveillance footage produced photos of a suspicious white Hyundai Tiburon in the parking lot around the time of the break-in. The car had a sun roof and some kind of shiny object on the front windshield. A photo was included in a bulletin circulated among police officers.
Twenty-four hours later, around 3:45 a.m. Nov. 18, a Snohomish patrol officer spotted a white Tiburon drive into the same parking lot and park next to the fuel pumps. It had a sunroof and a shiny decal on the front windshield. The mysterious windshield ware turned out to be a Seahawks sticker.
A Monroe man, 35, was driving the car. He later confessed to the break-in, according to court records.
On the day of the burglary, the suspect appeared confident he'd gotten away it.
That morning, his girlfriend -- who police believe was unaware of his criminal plans -- grew concerned because he had not come home.
He texted her back, at one point saying, "It was clean and safe and no one seen me at all! I AM IN THE CLEAR! I DIDN'T EVEN TRIP THE ALARM!"
Police tracked down many of his movements after the break-in.
On Nov. 21, the Snohomish County Regional SWAT team served a warrant in the 6800 block of 51st Avenue NE in Marysville. It was there, police allege, the burglary suspect exchanged some of the guns for drugs and money in two separate deals. The alleged drug dealer, 52, was arrested after a brief standoff.
The burglary suspect's roommate also was arrested for allegedly helping sell some of the firearms.
Other arrests followed.
The ever-widening web of underground sales has kept detectives busy writing and serving search warrants almost daily since the break-in.
Many of the guns were sold and resold so quickly it is hard to know where they are now, Flood said. It is a reality that worries the police chief.
"I would like to recover all of the guns but I don't think we'll be able to," he said.
Eric Stevick: 425-339-3446; firstname.lastname@example.org.
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