The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is investigating after someone stole an agricultural loader, plowed it through the front of FREDS Guns in Sequim and stole upward of 20-30 handguns and ammunition.
Clallam County Sheriff’s Detective Sgt. Eric Munger said surveillance video shows a single person using the loader to break through the gate at the front of the store, located at 261340 U.S. Highway 101, at 11:23 p.m. Saturday, April 13.
That person then went inside, broke a glass gun case and loaded a duffel bag with about 20 to 30 handguns, Munger said. He said it isn’t known exactly how many guns were taken.
“We don’t have inventory at this time,” Munger said.
Chief Criminal Deputy Brian King said that though only one person appears on video, it is unclear whether that person had help.
FREDS Guns owner Seth Larson called it an “audacious criminal act,” adding that whoever did it tried to tear down his building.
“We are fully cooperating with law enforcement, and have provided a list of the stolen inventory, including serial numbers,” he said. “We are making arrangements for the safe and secure storage of the remaining inventory.”
Larson said the thousands of dollars he has invested in security — including $40,000 for a camera system — paid off.
“I can’t tell you all that went on in there, but it worked,” Larson said. “They made subject(s) panic and subject(s) made mistakes.”
While security measures didn’t prevent the burglar from gaining entry, the front door appeared mostly undamaged. It was the wall around it that gave out and the force from the loader shifted the building, Larson said.
“He ran through the whole building, not just the door,” Larson said. “No matter what security we had there, it wouldn’t have stopped anything. It was like a semi-truck.
“It looks like two sticks of dynamite went off in the entry way because it blew everything 40 feet across the room.”
Munger said detectives were continuing to review the footage and that so far the identity of the person is unknown.
The burglar might have a minor injury, Munger said. Near the broken glass there are small drops of blood.
Munger said he doesn’t believe the injury would be severe enough to cause someone to seek medical attention.
“If anybody knows anything we would like to know what they know,” Munger said.
The machinery used in the burglary was stolen from Leitz Farm Supply and after the theft the telehandler was abandoned on Atterberry Road
Ed Leitz, who owns Leitz Farm Supply, said the agricultural telehandler was stolen from his property near Joslin road. He estimated it would be a three-minute drive down the highway to get to FREDS Guns.
Leitz uses the machine for loading and unloading hay and said that it can easily push 80,000 pounds.
“Seth and his family are good people and I hate to see something like this happen to anybody, especially a fellow small business owner,” Leitz said. “To think that not only would someone jeopardize that, but jeopardize my livelihood too, it’s sickening. I’m absolutely sickened by it.”
Leitz said that based on his experience whoever stole his equipment had to have known how to drive the loader.
“For them to jump in the damn thing, drive it down the freeway and not get caught, it’s someone who has operated one before,” he said.
Larson said he is thankful for community support as he works with law enforcement to bring whoever did this to justice.
He estimated around 18 people showed up Sunday morning, April 14, offering donations of hundreds and thousands of dollars, including offers from Bob Reandeau of Puget Sound Executive Services and Joe D’Amico of Security Services Northwest to provide security and safe storage of the remaining firearms in a vault.
“Everybody is coming together for this small little business here and I think it’s amazing that people care so much within this community,” Larson said.
Anyone with any information about the theft is urged to contact the Clallam County Sheriff’s Office by calling dispatch at 360-417-2459 or 9-1-1.
Jesse Major is a reporter with the Olympic Peninsula News Group, which is composed of Sound Publishing newspapers Peninsula Daily News, Sequim Gazette and Forks Forum. He can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.