ORRINGTON, Maine — At around 2:45 a.m. Monday, Buddy, a Jack Russell terrier, began to bark.
Buddy and his owners, Joan and Don Barrett, and the couple’s son live upstairs from the Mill Creek Rod & Gun shop, which the Barretts have operated for three decades from the basement of their house.
The barking woke Don Barrett — who thought his dog was barking at deer — so he decided to make a grilled tomato sandwich and go back to sleep. A determined Buddy began to bark again, and this time his warnings were not ignored.
“I went down over the stairs [into the gun shop] and the minute I rounded the corner I noticed the door was open and three Winchesters [were] on the floor,” Barrett said Monday. “There were 11 guns stolen.”
Barrett called 911 around 3 a.m., then went outside and saw a truck and car speeding away down the dead-end street. He found another stolen gun in a nearby ditch on Tuesday.
Corey Damon, 19, of Millinocket was arrested Monday morning in Brewer by Trooper Christopher Hashey of the Maine State Police in connection with the burglary. Damon was charged with felony burglary and theft, as well as criminal mischief, unauthorized use of a vehicle and refusing to submit to arrest. Damon’s bail was set at $10,000, and he remained in jail on Tuesday, a jail official said.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is assisting with the investigation and the U.S. Attorney’s Office is handling the case, which still is under investigation, Hashey said.
“He broke out a basement window” to gain access to the gun shop, Barrett said. “I have bars on the window, and he wiggled them loose, pushed them aside, and went in through a 10-inch-by-12-inch hole.”
While wiggling into the basement window, Damon apparently knocked off the back of his cell phone, which was found outside the window, and caused his phone’s battery to fall out inside the shop.
“That’s what we found,” Barrett said. When he was later arrested, “this guy had a cell phone with no battery in it.”
While investigating the break-in, Hashey heard police scanner traffic about a truck that went off the road in Brewer and decided to look into it since Barrett had reported a truck leaving the scene.
The truck, driven by Damon, was stolen out of Corinth, and in the truck’s bed was a motorcycle that had been stolen from Winterport, the trooper said. Damon’s passenger was his cousin Tyler Damon, 19, who was charged with unauthorized use of a vehicle.
The stolen guns from Orrington were not in the truck, Hashey said, declining to say where they were found.
Some of the Barretts’ stolen weapons have been recovered by investigators, the gun shop owner said.
“State police and ATF showed up [Monday] evening with 22 guns,” Barrett said. “Nine of them were mine. The rest belonged to someone else.”
Hashey said police have identified the owners of most of the weapons recovered.
The burglar or burglars, who reportedly also left behind a camouflage jacket, did not know the value of the guns, said Barrett, who believes that more than one person was involved in the break-in.
“There is $5,000 sitting here, and he took a $200 gun,” he said Tuesday, pointing to a row of rifles located just inside the shop’s door. “He just grabbed what he could.”
Some of the stolen guns are part of Barrett’s private collection, and one was an old Winchester rifle that is valued at more than $2,500, he said. In all, the gun shop owner estimates that the thief or thieves took between $5,000 and $6,000 worth of weapons and ammunition.
Some of the weapons taken were scuffed up, which lowered their value, Joan Barrett said Tuesday. She added that she was amazed someone was brazen enough to break into a home business with people asleep inside.
“Can you imagine?” she asked. “All three of us were here.”
Over the last 30 years of running the business, “we’ve been lucky,” Joan Barrett added. “This is the first time.”
The 11-year-old terrier that alerted his owners about the burglary remained on guard duty Tuesday.
“If it wasn’t for Buddy barking, he probably would have cleaned us out,” Don Barrett said.
He added of Buddy: “He’s getting an extra treat tonight.”