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Top notch security cameras help catch gun thief at Smokey Hills

BY SARAH SMITHssmith@parkrapidsenterprise.com If you were ever tempted to get a five-fingered discount at Smokey Hills Outdoor Store, think again. Thursday noon an unwitting gun thief learned the hard way that crime doesn't pay. The suspect came ...

Hendri Ernst
Hendri Ernst stands by a gun display at Smokey Hills Outdoor Store. The place is about as impenetrable as Fort Knox. (Sarah Smith / Enterprise)

BY SARAH SMITH
ssmith@parkrapidsenterprise.com

If you were ever tempted to get a five-fingered discount at Smokey Hills Outdoor Store, think again.
Thursday noon an unwitting gun thief learned the hard way that crime doesn’t pay.
The suspect came in looking at guns and a two-toned Sig Sauer pistol was placed on the countertop for him to view.
All of a sudden it was gone.
Store manager Hendri Ernst quickly pulled up security footage from one of the 20-odd cameras in the store on Highway 71 north. There was Exhibit A, a man tucking the gun into his jacket pocket, then heading for the exit.
“We knew he’d stolen the gun before he ever left the parking lot,” Ernst said.
Another security camera captured the black Pontiac’s license number the suspect parked in the store lot, but an employee ducked out the door to double check as the Pontiac sped out of the parking lot.
It matched.
Ernst immediately called the Hubbard County Sheriff’s Department to report the incident, the vehicle make and model and license number.
Within an hour, the man and gun were in custody, thanks to quick-thinking employees, technology, and equally quick-thinking officers.
“We have never had an incident in the five years we’re been here,” Ernst said, his heart still pounding from the excitement.
Ernst put the security footage on his cell phone and sent it to the deputies and State Patrol officers chasing the vehicle north on the highway.
“He was brash enough” to think he could get away with the crime, Ernst said.
“This shows how quickly they get caught.”
The store has around 600 guns in its inventory, Ernst said. A strict system keeps them all inventoried.
Immediately.
There was a hitch when officers pulled the suspect over on Highway 71 North by Count Road 9 and found another handgun on the seat.
Once again, cell phone pictures showed it was not the Sig Sauer. But one deputy recognized the gun and was going to be contacting the owner.
The Sig Sauer turned up in the man’s footwear after a search took place.
“Thanks to the Hubbard County Sheriff’s Department,” Ernst said. “They were awesome! It was amazing. Their response time was minutes.”
Ernst was also thankful that his security system and sharp-eyed employees worked in tandem.
“It’s good that people know they’re gonna get caught,” Ernst said. “We caught him red-handed.”
The suspect was jailed in Hubbard County and will not be named until he is formally charged. His Pontiac was impounded and taken to the sheriff’s secure lot to be searched.

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