The burglar who called 911

The 911 call came from inside the Shell gas station and convenience store in Freeland. It was 11:17 p.m. Friday, more than an hour after the store had closed and everyone had gone home.

An 18-year-old man found a phone in the manager’s office and called for help, telling the dispatcher he had been injured while trying to stop two or more assailants from breaking into the Shell building. According to the dispatcher’s log, the man said the men had beaten him with a baseball bat and fled in a silver Maxima. He said that during the fight, he had cut himself on broken glass and needed medical attention.

Deputy Sheriff Jay Wallace arrived to find the glass from the front door shattered and a trail of blood leading to the cash register, but no victim. After confirming with dispatch, Wallace found the man still on the phone lying on the office floor. He refused to come out.

While paramedics tended to lacerations on the man’s arms, Wallace heard the story again. Two guys. Baseball bat. Maxima. But, the victim’s pockets were stuffed with cigarettes that appeared to have just been lifted from the store shelves. Wallace retraced the trail of blood that led from the door to the cash register to the cigarette shelves and then into the manager’s office.

A video tape from the store’s surveillance camera would soon show that there were no two guys. No baseball bat. It was the alleged victim on the tape, kicking in a glass door, rifling through the cigarettes, trying, but failing, to get into the cash register. Having done this without hurting himself, he then left the building, only to return moments later to try again. This time, on the way through the broken glass, he cut his arm in such a way that blood sprayed on the walls. After failing again to get into the cash register, he found the manager’s office and called 911.

Arrested in connection with the alleged crime — and treated for injuries at the scene — was Joseph Zuver of Langley. He was later charged with two counts of burglary in the second degree. He is being held in Island County Jail on $5,000 bail.

Serene Shorey, manager of the Shell store, was called in at about 1 a.m. and spent much of that night with lube manager Chris Reed cleaning up glass and blood.

“The whole top of the register was smeared in blood,” she said. “They found him in the office and there was blood splattered all over. Pretty disgusting.”

The station opened for business as usual Saturday morning and had the broken glass replaced by Monday afternoon. Shorey estimated the damage at $1,000, which she said doesn’t even meet the deductible for collecting insurance.

The only items missing from the store, she said, were the cigarettes.

The bungled burglary captured the interest of at least one Seattle television news crew. But, Jan Smith, spokeswoman for the Island County Sheriff’s Office, took a sober view of the crime.

“It’s serious in that he certainly endangered himself,” she said. “He damaged private property, and he cost the taxpayers a lot of money.”

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