Monroe Police arrest prolific cigarette burglary suspect after dogged effort

Chief: K9 Nuke, officer’s diligence key in case

By Chris Hendrickson

Monroe Police Officer Jon Richardson couldn’t have timed it better if he’d tried. He arrived at the Shell gas station on U.S. 2 and North Lewis Street at around 4 a.m. Tuesday, Oct. 25, just in time to see a suspected burglar emerge through a freshly smashed out window. 

The suspect, a 36-year-old Monroe man, had been on the department’s radar as the lead suspect in a string of burglaries at local smoke shops and convenience stores. In just over a month, six burglaries occurred, where the thief used a rock or other heavy object to smash through a window and make off with numerous cartons of cigarettes. As a result of the pattern, the department implemented increased patrols and heightened security at smoke shops while engaging in community outreach to alert local business owners.

Richardson was making his final business check of the night when he pulled into the Shell, said Deputy Chief Ken Ginnard. After spotting the broken window, he proceeded to park his patrol car, ending up face to face with the suspect.  

“The bottom line is Officer Richardson just did great police work,” Ginnard said. “He made his rounds every time he was on shift and checked every one of those places to see what was going on.”

The thief got away with 39 cartons of cigarettes valued at $2,847 during the first incident at the Park Place Grocery on West Main Street on Wednesday, Sept. 21, according to police documents. The theft occurred at around 4 a.m., with officers responding less than two hours later. The lower pane of glass on the west-facing door was shattered and a large rock was found just inside the door. 

Upon reviewing surveillance footage, the suspect was positively identified by members of the department’s ProAct Team, a specialized unit meant to target prolific criminals engaging in reoccurring illegal activity. Patrol officers worked to gather probable cause to arrest the suspect, based on what they were able to learn by analyzing the footage.  

Park Place Grocery was hit again five days later, and more cartons of cigarettes were taken. Five days after that another burglary occurred, this time at the 7 Star Smoke Shop on East Main Street, where 30 cartons of cigarettes were stolen.

On Monday, Oct. 3, Officer Shaun Van Eaton contacted the suspect in Lewis Street Park, arresting him for an outstanding warrant and the first burglary at Park Place Grocery. The suspect was released from Snohomish County Jail on Wednesday, Oct. 5. On Sunday Oct. 9, another burglary occurred at the Monroe Cigar Q, on the north side of U.S. 2. The Cigar Q was hit again on Oct. 17. 

Ginnard authorized overtime and patrol officers in unmarked vehicles were deployed in hopes of catching the suspect off guard. Patrol officers focused on identifying stores likely to be targeted and worked to apprise business owners of the situation.   

“We personally contacted every place in town that might be hit, so they would know what’s going on,” Ginnard said. 

Richardson advised the Shell station himself, said Sgt. Cindy Chessie. He warned the owner the thief was grabbing cigarettes by the carton and advised him to take added precautions to make them less accessible. As a result, only individual cigarette packs were within reach during the burglary. Because of this, the suspect was allegedly in the Shell station for a full four minutes; twice as long as he’d been in any of the other stores, Chessie said. 

The suspect shoved a grocery cart in Richardson’s path to hinder his pursuit and fled on foot; running to a location southwest of the former Del’s Feed & Farm Supply store. Officers surrounded the area with assistance from the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office, and Monroe officers Paul Henderson, Jason Southard and K9 Nuke were brought in to perform the search. 

They searched exhaustively but were initially unable to locate the suspect due to complications stemming from the swampy area, which includes a retention pond. The area is marshy, filled with blackberry brambles and the retention pond is deep, Ginnard said. 

“All the guys knew there was a pond back there but we didn’t know how deep it was until we got two officers in there over their heads in water,” Ginnard said.  

They knew they were close based on the floating pack of Marlboros. 

Southard made the decision to call in an additional county K9 to help search, but to no avail, and the track was called off. Then, just after they broke containment, Southard decided to do one last proximity check, feeling strongly that the suspect was still nearby. His suspicions were confirmed by a good indication from Nuke, after which he located the suspect within a fenced area on the Del’s property. Southard pursued and caught up with the suspect, deploying Nuke, who successfully caught him.  

He was taken into custody at that point, said Ginnard.

In the meantime, Richardson reviewed the Shell store’s surveillance footage, identifying the suspect as the same person who hit the Park Place Grocery. A member of the ProAct team was brought in to confirm the suspect’s identity.   

While in custody, the suspect admitted to three of the six burglaries, according to police. 

“He maintains he didn’t do the other three, but I don’t know if we’re going to have any leads on that or not. It very well could be him,” Chessie said. “We will continue to investigate.”

It was an example of the entire department working together, Chessie and Ginnard said. From the ProAct Team, to Sgt. Paul Ryan and his patrol team, to the officers on day shift, the response was both proactive and department-wide. Patrol officers were constantly on the lookout for the suspect, searching for evidence to directly tie him to the crimes. Richardson, who celebrated 30 years with the department in 2015, was on task with his nightly patrols, they said, and his proactive conversation with the owner of Shell was likely a contributing factor in the suspect being caught.    

“I think the whole department did a phenomenal job,” Ginnard said.

Monroe Police Chief Tim Quenzer shared the story with the Monroe City Council on Tuesday, Oct. 25, commending his officers for the investigation and the capture. 

“I’m really proud of the guys; they’ve been working hard on this. We’ve had guys on overtime staking out potential targets in town,” Quenzer said. “It was a good day for us.”

K9 Nuke has been with the Monroe Police Department since January 2014, and was used to apprehend a burglary suspect early Tuesday morning, Oct. 25. Photo by Chris Hendrickson


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