SANDY — A man was arrested Wednesday on suspicion of burglary after he allegedly broke into a Sierra-West Jewelers through the ceiling of a neighboring store, police said.
Gene Richins, 31, was trying to break through the store's bulletproof glass with a fire extinguisher to exit the building when police arrived, according to Sgt. Jon Arnold. Police were notified of the potential break-in when the alarms went off at 6:35 a.m. at the Sierra-West Jewelers located at 60 E. 10600 South in Sandy.
"The person that we're talking about was able to break into one case that had a lot of beautiful gold-filled and sterling items and he had started to put those into his bag," said store owner Tim Branscomb. "The alarms were going off this whole time. I don't know why he didn't just leave, but he stayed and had put watches in his bag and the police surrounded the building and they had a standoff for a few minutes and then he gave up."
Richins entered the jewelry store by going through a neighboring bakery and then climbing down through the ceiling of Sierra-West Jewelers, Arnold said. Richins set off a motion detector alarm when he entered the business. While police were en route to the store, patrons from the Einstein Bagels next door called and said they could see someone inside the jewelry store and the lights were flashing.
Police said Richins wasn't able to leave the building the same way he came in, so when they arrived he was unsuccessfully trying to break through the shatterproof glass with a fire extinguisher he found in the store.
Richins was taken into custody without incident, Arnold said. Police said that Richins smoked two cigarettes while waiting to be arrested. Officers communicated with him through the glass and when the store manager arrived with a key to open the door, police recovered all of the merchandise he had on him.
He was arrested and booked into the Salt Lake County Jail. There was major damage to the ceiling, wall and one showcase at the jewelry store, according to Branscomb.
Employees at Sierra-West Jewelers had not yet arrived at work when the burglary occurred, Branscomb said. He said they consider themselves lucky more damage was not done.
The alarms were going off this whole time. I don't know why he didn't just leave.
–owner Tim Branscomb
"We have a lot of security around that building between the cameras and two alarm systems and things I can't even tell you about, but the point is that he went ahead and tried to break through all of that, and had some big tools to do it with and got in, but he really did not get away," he said.
Branscomb said officials with Sierra-West Jewelers believe Richins was responsible for another burglary that occurred at the same location three or four years ago before the installation of the bulletproof glass. During that burglary the thief was able to make away with $75,000 worth of merchandise, he said.
Police said they are not aware of Richins' involvement in any other burglaries.
Contributing: Devon Dolan