Using the quiet of nighttime as a cloak, a thief or thieves used a rock to smash into Miller's Sports in downtown White Salmon and steal away with three handguns.
According to Police Chief Ned Kindler of the Bingen-White Salmon Police Department, the break-in apparently happened early Monday, sometime after 2 a.m. An officer on patrol had checked the business at about that time, and nothing was amiss.
To gain access to the business, a side panel of glass next to the front door was broken out with a rock. Once inside, the burglar or burglars used another rock to break a locked glass case containing several firearms.
According to Roger Miller, owner of the business -- which primarily sells sporting goods and liquor -- the perpetrators made off with three handguns.
No other items were taken.
"They didn't touch anything else," Miller said. "It was pretty obvious they'd been in here before and knew what they were after. They dropped the rock right through the top of the glass case; the rock was sitting right there in the case."
Miller said the stolen guns included a 9-mm automatic, a 9-mm derringer, and a .22 automatic. Miller estimated the combined value of the handguns, which were new, at approximately $300.
He added that it would cost as much as $500 to repair the broken window and the glass case.
The break-in was discovered by a group of five elementary school students on their way to school Monday at about 7:30 a.m. The kids went up the street to The Creamery -- one of the few businesses open at that time of the morning -- to describe what they had seen. The owner of The Creamery, Katina Putnam, then called 9-1-1 to alert law enforcement officials.
"Within a few minutes, the police were there," Putnam added.
Later in the day, Putnam rewarded the kids who reported the incident with free ice cream cones.
"I wanted to thank them for being good citizens and reporting it," Putnam said. "We need to reinforce that."
Kindler said the crime appeared to have been conducted very quickly.
"They knew what they were after," Kindler explained.
Kindler added that he didn't believe the break-in was related to the nationwide surge in gun purchases following the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11. He pointed out there have been no other gun thefts reported in recent months.
"It's probably not related, but we can't rule it out completely," Kindler said. "We just don't know at this time."
Kindler said the investigation is continuing. Anyone who might have information on the theft or who saw anything suspicious around the time of the break-in is requested to call the Police Department at 493-1177.