Police arrest man for stealing tip jar from Sandbar

JPD investigating whether crime related to armed robbery at Heritage coffee stand

Police said they have arrested the man who was caught on camera stealing a tip jar from the Sandbar & Grill on Monday, and they are investigating whether the crime could be related to an armed robbery the same day at a drive-thru coffee stand.


Leads from the public helped identify the tip jar thief suspect as 30-year-old Joseph Robert Lofstrom after the Sandbar’s employees posted the video footage on Facebook and Craigslist, police said.

Juneau Police Department spokesman Lt. David Campbell said a patrol officer located Lofstrom at about 1:30 p.m. Wednesday on Trout Street, the road between the Valley Breeze In and McDonald’s. He was detained, interviewed and taken to Lemon Creek Correctional Center.

In a press release, Campbell said JPD was already looking for Lofstrom in connection to a theft reported last Friday at the Juneau Gold Buyer where Lofstrom was an employee. He allegedly stole $115 in cash while working there, the release states.

Lofstrom was charged with two misdemeanor counts of third-degree theft in connection to the Sandbar and Gold Buyer thefts. Police said he’s presently being held on $1,000 bail and is scheduled to be arraigned in Juneau District Court Thursday afternoon.

The video footage from the Sandbar shows a man taking a large plastic tip jar next to the restaurant’s cash register, concealing it under his jacket and walking out the door at about 12:40 a.m. Monday. The entire incident took only a minute or two while the employee was in the back making beef sticks, Sandbar owner Gail Niemi previously told the Empire.

Sandbar employee Kelly Tkachenko, who filed the online police report with JPD and then posted the camera footage on social media websites, said it’s difficult to know exactly how much money was in the tip jar since it wasn’t counted immediately before it was taken. Estimates vary from just $18 to $100.

In a phone interview Thursday, Campbell said police are investigating whether the theft is related to the armed robbery at the Heritage Coffee drive-thru stand near the airport. A man had entered the rear door of the stand at about 10 a.m. Monday morning, flashed a tool as a weapon, demanded money from the baristas and fled the scene with an undisclosed amount of cash.

Campbell said the two cases “appear to have some similarities as far as the (suspect’s) description goes,” but that detectives are still pursuing other leads.

“There are similarities, and we are looking into it, but we want to make sure that we don’t narrow our focus down to where we miss other details,” Campbell said.

Campbell confirmed that police do have a “person of interest” in the robbery case. He said he could not confirm if that person was Lofstrom.

• Contact reporter Emily Russo Miller at 523-2263 or at emily.miller@juneauempire.com.


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