WEBSTER COUNTY, Mo. — A man suspected of stealing from a gun store near Fordland has been arrested.
Earlier this month, a man was caught on camera taking a gun, magazines, a backpack and body armor from Mountainside Outfitters.
“We had a really large event that we attended was Saturday, November 4, and we had very large crowds,” Owner Dave Metzger said. “After spending 3 hours of trying on all kinds of different body armor and going through and picking out what he wanted, he picked up some ammunition, 125 rounds of ammunition, multiple magazines, 30-round magazines. Once he got away from the display, this particular AR 15 pistol is a really unique one that has two hinges and it folds into thirds and becomes incredibly compact, small enough to fit into an ammo can, or in this case, he put it in a tiny little backpack that has built-in body armor. So once he got it free from the display, just casually put it in his basket.”
Metzger says that’s how he believes the man was able to blend in and get away more easily.
“He used the crowd and used everything going on as a distraction and found the opportunity they needed to be able to get it away from the display,” Metzger explained.
The store filed a report and pleaded on social media for information leading to his arrest.
“We were able to find him [on camera] and obviously got really, really great footage of his face, which is especially concerning considering the fact that he was willing to show their face on that many cameras,” Metzger said. “It makes you wonder if what they’re planning to do, they don’t plan on walking away from or being locked up for. So his demeanor was extremely unsettling.”
OzarksFirst crews arrived at the store to help spread the word in case anyone had information but learned of a development around the same time as the Webster County Sheriff’s Office.
“We just now found out through scouring tons of footage that he arrived in a semi-truck and parked out on Highway 60 and walked up over on foot through a blind spot through the festival and then entered in over here at this side door,” Metzger said
That security footage was clear enough to show the name of a company on the side of the trailer, which led to a call from Webster County Sheriff Roye Cole.
“They’ve been extremely helpful. I was able to communicate with [the trucking company] and verify my identity, I was able to get the information I need to find the suspect information,” Sheriff Cole said. [Mountainside Outfitters] uncovered some other cameras that they had because they had several and took a while to review their footage. So they found some more footage and found the vehicle, and we were able to track that vehicle to the company.”
The information included a tracking device on the semi-truck.
OzarksFirst then sat with Sheriff Cole in his office as he watched a green dot on his computer screen make its way back north to Missouri from Arkansas.
“We’re currently sitting here watching the vehicle that he’s in come towards us. So we’re getting ready to make an arrest, Lord willing,” Cole said. I never imagined he was driving right back to us. He was in Memphis this morning.”
As soon as the driver got across the Missouri state line, Oregon County deputies arrested the man in Thayer, Missouri.
In tow, a photo provided to OzarksFirst shows deputies found the backpack, gun, and several magazines.
A social media post by Mountainside Outfitters says all items were recovered in the arrest.
Metzger said he’s glad the man is off the streets, and praises the Webster County Sheriff’s Office for their work, but said the financial impact could hurt his family business.
“This is our life. This is our family. This is the exact same money that puts food on our table, the exact same money that buys our kids sports clothes is the exact same money that goes to pay for guns,” Metzger said. “Insurance is not helpful in a situation like that. Our deductible’s higher than what is stolen. So although insurance may come into play in a larger situation, it’s not of help at all in this situation.”
OzarksFirst will monitor this story for updates and provide more information as we learn it.