U.S. grocery store 'squatter' hides in ceiling for after-hours sprees

WATCH: Authorities in Auburn, Washington release surveillance video of a man they believe has been living in a grocery store for weeks.

Police near Seattle, Wash., are looking for an after-hours shopper who allegedly hides in the ceiling of a grocery store and creeps out each night to steal food and other valuables after closing time.

The suspect wears a mask, a hoodie, and a black outfit for his all-you-can-steal sprees, according to police in the city of Auburn. The unidentified man is said to have stolen thousands of dollars worth of goods, including a large number of cigarettes.


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Police have released surveillance footage of the masked and hooded suspect, who descends from the drop ceiling at Haggen Northwest Fresh Market, a grocery store outside Seattle. He later makes his escape through the same drop ceiling.

The footage was recorded on Christmas Day at around 7:20 p.m., after the store had closed for the holiday. Police were called to the store that night for a possible burglary but were unable to apprehend the suspect. However, they did find signs that he had entered the store through a vent on the roof.

Police were called back to the market on three separate occasions last week for more reports of the after-hours thief.

A masked suspect is shown in this image from security footage recorded after closing time at a grocery store in Auburn, Wash., on Dec. 25, 2019.

A masked suspect is shown in this image from security footage recorded after closing time at a grocery store in Auburn, Wash., on Dec. 25, 2019.

Via Auburn Police

Auburn Police say it’s unclear whether the suspect is squatting in the rafters, or if he simply shows up to steal goods that he can sell on the black market.

“We spent probably about four-and-a-half hours up in the rafters trying to hunt this guy down,” Auburn Police Commander Mike Hirman told local station King 5 News. “It’s very difficult. There are many, many little hiding places where he could’ve been.”


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Several ceiling panels were missing when King 5 News visited the store late last week. A store employee told the station that she recently saw the suspect’s legs dangling from the ceiling in a storage closet.

Authorities have used infrared technology and K-9 units to search the grocery store, but have been unable to find the suspect. Their search has only turned up a few of the suspect’s belongings, including a jacket and some gloves.

“It’s such a large store and it’s very crowded with venting and everything,” Hirman said.

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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