Man Living for Weeks in Grocery Store Rafters Arrested, Found With 'Very Expensive' Cheese

Police have arrested a man who reportedly lived in the rafters of a Haggen Northwest Fresh Market in Auburn, Washington for several weeks.

KING 5 reported that the man had been squatting above the drop ceiling during business hours, dropping down after the store was closed to stock up on food and cigarettes.

grocery store freezer aisle
A grocery store freezer aisle Prasith To / Getty Images

The store first called police on Christmas Day to report what they thought was a break-in. Officers investigated and found tools, clothes and debris around a vent to the roof. They also discovered some rope, which they believe the suspect used to enter the store.

However, as days passed the Haggen employees started to think that the burglar wasn't a one-time visitor. After reporting strange noises coming from the ceiling above the store, one worker spotted a pair of legs dangling from above in a storage closet.

Police were called again, but they were unable to find the man.

Auburn Police Commander Mike Hirman told KING 5, "There's ventilation that had been moved and tracks that had been moved. We spent probably about 4.5 hours up in the rafters trying to hunt this guy down."

His department deployed infrared cameras and brought in K-9 units to see if they could catch a smell, to no avail.

On January 17, police released surveillance footage of the suspect taken from the store's cameras. In it, a man dressed in black and wearing a facemask fills a bag with thousands of dollars worth of Marlboro Smooths.

The footage allowed police to determine the man's identity and obtain a search warrant. They found the man in an undisclosed area and took him into custody. When he was arrested, the man was in possession of an unopened brick of Beecher's cheese taken from the store with a sticker price of $394.97.

The unopened packs of cigarettes were returned to store shelves. The cheese was donated to a local food bank.

The Auburn Police Department did not release the suspect's name.

The Haggen Grocery Store Burglar who was accessing the store via the rafters has been identified and arrested. A search...

Posted by Auburn WA Police Department on Wednesday, February 5, 2020

People living in businesses without permission can cause serious problems for the owners. In November 2019, KIRO 7 reported on another Seattle-area squatter that forced a local bagel shop to close.

City inspectors came to Cascade Bagel and Deli in Lakewood to evaluate the building's electrical wiring. While looking at the location, they discovered a family of three, and their pet dog, living in the space above the restaurant that had traditionally been used for file storage.

The panicked dog charged and bit one of the inspectors, KIRO7 said. Owner Bob Bringer said that he was unaware anybody was living in the space, but he had let employees who were facing homelessness live there in the past.

The family was evicted and the landlord for the building terminated Bringer's lease shortly afterward.