Attempted burglary at Western Auto thwarted

Posted: Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Juneau Police Department responded to an alarm from Western Auto-Marine at 5:52 a.m. Tuesday morning, arriving within one minute to apprehend 27-year-old Juneau resident Derik Wythe inside the store.

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Klas Stolpe / Juneau Empire
Klas Stolpe / Juneau Empire

Police said Wythe was in possession of firearms that had been taken from a secure display rack in the store. He was transported to JPD headquarters for questioning.

Officers remained on the scene and secured the perimeter of the building to investigate reports of a second suspect on the scene, eventually calling in the Juneau Special Weapons And Tactical, or SWAT, unit. JPD took the precaution in case a second suspect had weapons.

“They just can’t take that chance,” JPD spokesperson Cindee Brown-Mills said on scene. “They are very thorough.”

More than 11 patrol vehicles responded to the scene to keep the public away from a possible second suspect. The main road was not closed but JPD was standing by to do just that if it were determined a second suspect had weapons, or access to them.

“We treat it like someone is inside,” an officer on scene said.

Eleven police officers have been shot within the past week around the United States, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page, and Brown-Mills said officers are aware of the statistic.

“You can imagine that cops around the country are pretty jumpy and cautious right now,” Brown-Mills said. “They are taking it slow right now. There is no rush. This was a multiple zone alarm which means someone was running through the building, it is different than the typical alarm that might be set off by an owner arriving at work.”

The JPD mobile command station arrived on site shortly after 7:30 a.m. to oversee the perimeter operations and the SWAT team arrived shortly after with a local dog and handler from Southeast Alaska Chiefs Against Drugs (SEACAD) to better search in hidden areas of the building complex.

A roughly three-hour search of the building did not reveal a second suspect. Police removed the perimeter at about 1 p.m., but stayed on site to look at store surveillance cameras.

Stores in and near the Western Auto-Marine location at 5165 Glacier Highway — including Gas ‘n Go Petro Express, Jerry’s Meats & Seafoods, Thibb’s Coffee & More, and Office Plus were closed through the morning rush and early afternoon.

“We have never had any incidents,” Office Plus manager J.C. Kestel said. “Western Auto and Jerry’s have break-ins all the time but no one touches our store. No one wants to steal office supplies, I guess.”

Wythe was charged with second-degree burglary, second-degree attempted theft, and criminal mischief. He is currently lodged at Lemon Creek Correctional Center.

• Contact Klas Stolpe at
523-2263 or

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