Thief living in grocery store ceiling confounds cops

Washington man squatting for weeks above supermarket he also loots continues to evade capture after 5 attempts.

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auburn washington grocery store squatter thief
Surveillance footage of the masked looter filling his festive boots at the store on Christmas Day
(Auburn WA Police Department)

For everyone who’s ever dreamt of cutting out the daily commute, take heart.

A Washington crook has managed just that – by moving into the ceiling space above the grocery store he steals from.

It’s an arrangement with clear advantages: no need to run a car or take a bus when one’s thieving shift is a mere skip and a jump away; flexibility to work nights when the fancy takes.

The major downside would seem a heightened risk of detection. Puzzlingly, though, law enforcement are yet to nab the rogue homeworker, even after 5 tries.

Officers were first called to the scene of the crime – the Haggen Northwest Fresh grocery store in Auburn, Washington – on Christmas Day, according to a local police Facebook post published at the weekend.

A suspect had reportedly stolen “thousands of dollars’ worth of cigarettes and liquor.” What’s more, the masked perp was even caught on store surveillance footage, which police shared in the social media update.

Auburn Police have been called to Haggen Lake Tapps on five occasions since Christmas Day. On that day, the suspect stole thousands of dollars’ worth of cigarettes and liquor. There have been four additional 911 calls since then: two on January 15th, one on the 16th, and another this morning.In each incident, employees either saw the suspect or heard the suspect in the rafters above the ceiling. In each case, officers searched above the false ceiling but came up empty.If anyone has information on this suspect, please call our tip line at 253-288-7403.

Posted by Auburn WA Police Department on Friday, January 17, 2020

However, although police have since responded to 4 more calls from the same store, most recently on Jan. 17, they continue to draw a blank.

Each time employees described either seeing the suspect or hearing him in the rafters above the ceiling. One even spotted a man’s legs in a supply closet dangling from above, WHTR reports.

But after thorough searches of up to 4.5 hours of the space above the store’s false ceiling, police have not found their man – only the tell-tale tools of his trade.

Auburn police commander Mike Hirman detailed the ample evidence of someone gaining access via a vent in the roof and using the space as a lair, including jackets, tools, gloves, rope and other debris.

And yet, in spite of the hot pursuit being ramped up with trained dogs and infrared technology, the baffling bandit remains at large.

“It’s very difficult,” Hirman said. “There are many, many little hiding places where he could’ve been. It’s such a large store, and it’s very crowded with venting and everything.”

Stay tuned for an update on this protracted yet unmissable game of cat and mouse. And remember to watch what you get up to indoors: some ceilings have eyes.

crazy americaAuburn, Washington
Location:22 miles south of Seattle
Population:81,905
Median Household Income:$64,400
Quirky Fact:Residents began calling the city “Auburn” 2 years after its incorporation, when they decided they disliked the connotations of the original name, “Slaughter.”

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Doug Strenz
Doug Strenz
1 year ago

What a devious so and so! Can’t believe the cops can’t find him somehow

Dana Malcolm
Dana Malcolm
1 year ago
Reply to  Doug Strenz

Sheer madness, right? I bet the guy’s long gone by now, which means they’ve got minimal chance of ever catching him

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