The 5-ton military cargo truck stolen from outside Shannon Jelenek's business did not go unnoticed on its trip from downtown into a snow bank outside Skykomish.
The owner of Armageddon Arms in Monroe closed up and walked outside Saturday, March 11. He planned to hop in the vehicle he uses to advertise the firearms store, but found an empty parking space; he usually drives it home every night.
He called the Monroe Police Department, and sent out alerts on social media.
“Honestly, that is the eye-catching piece for our store,” Jelenek said. “So basically, we are next to Papa Murphy's, and unless you are specifically looking for us, you would drive right by us. Literally, that is the face of our store.”
Community members immediately began posting about their sightings of the truck during its journey east along U.S. Highway 2.
One witness said they were nearly run over by the truck as the driver fled from the parking lot in the morning, and another saw the thieves hitchhiking with a gas can when they ran out of fuel, Jelenek said. A video also surfaced of the truck being towed along with straps that are kept in the vehicle to hold down cargo — it wasn't a tow strap, he said.
Whoever stole it had to know when Jelenek came in to work, he said. Witnesses said the truck was stolen around 10 a.m. that morning, soon after it was parked. The driver would also have had to know how to operate the vehicle, such as lever positions, where to sit and the parking brake location, he said.
“No, they needed a little knowledge,” he said. “You can't just hop in and start it,” he said.
Jelenek purchased the truck for about $10,000, and invested about $5,000 in improvements, but now calls the vehicle invaluable. He originally tried to buy it at auction, but wasn't able to put the funds down quickly enough, “so it kind of disappeared.” Later, he found the exact vehicle for sale on Craigslist.
The truck was built around 1985, and originally used for transporting troops, Jelenek said. Arms dealerships often use a similar vehicle to advertise their stores, he said.
Jelenek said the truck isn't running as well as it was before it was stolen. The antilock braking system is damaged, and some diesel fuel ran through places it shouldn't. The vehicle was stuck pretty well in the snow when it was found, and required towing assistance to pull it out, he said.
It likely would have never been located without the help of the community, Jelenek said. As a “realistic business owner,” he said the realization it was gone was a little emotional, but he knew if it wasn't found within a few days, it would probably end up cut apart in someone's garage.
Monroe Police administrative director Debbie Willis said the department is investigating information received from the public. In her 10 years working with the department, she said she doesn't remember receiving a property theft report for a vehicle of this size.
The department released images Friday of a man in a convenience store that police are considering a possible suspect. He was with a woman at the time, according to a crime tip bulletin, and at times with a younger man.
Willis said anyone with information should call the police department's anonymous tip line at 360-863-4600.