A Great Falls small business owner was burglarized recently, and now the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) are offering a reward for information in the case.
Grove’s Taxidermy and Firearms, owned by Travis Grove, was broken into at about 1:30 a.m. on Aug. 18, and the suspect or suspects burglarized several other businesses in the same complex at that time.
The ATF is offering a reward of up to $2,500, which will be matched by NSSF for a total reward of up to $5,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for the theft.
The reward is part of a larger national cooperative initiative between ATF and NSSF in which NSSF matches ATF’s reward in cases involving the theft of firearms from federally licensed firearms retailers, according to a news release from the ATF.
According to Grove, the motion detector alarm in his store went off when the person or persons entered the shop through a small window. However, he said he had his phone on silent and did not notice the alarm until he was getting ready for work the next morning.
When he drove by the shop, he immediately saw the broken window and called the Great Falls Police Department. In an unfortunate twist of fate, Grove’s cameras had been down for about two weeks before the burglary, so there is no video footage of the crime.
Grove has been operating since 2018 and had moved to his current location at 1201 10th Ave. S. in October 2021. The break-in was a blow to the small business, Grove said, especially after the setbacks caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Grove said sales were good in the pandemic’s early days. Firearm inventory dropped by the end of 2020, though, and the shortages continued into 2021. Grove said the firearm inventory is starting to come back, but ammunition is still in short supply.
The three stolen handguns were a Compact 9mm, a Rock Island 10mm and a Kel-Tek CP33 .22 long rifle with a combined value of about $1,600. That’s an amount Grove will probably never see again.
“With firearms, there’s a lot of exemptions in the insurance companies,” he said, “so my insurance does not cover theft of merchandise.”
Even if an arrest is made, the guns will be held as evidence until the case is adjudicated, which could possibly take years.
One way or another, Grove said he’ll have to make up the money on his own — a tough prospect since he uses the sale of each firearm to buy his next one. If that weren’t enough, Grove recently purchased an expensive laser engraver to try to boost business.
If there’s a bright side to the situation, however, Grove said it’s that the thieves didn’t touch anything he’s selling on consignment. If they had, he would have had to reimburse their owners for the items’ value.
Grove said although he will probably never be made whole, it would be nice to see the suspect or suspects caught and have their day in court. He emphasized that his wasn’t the only business that would like to see justice done.
“It’s been an eye-opening experience,” Grove said. “I just hope if someone knows who (the thieves) were, they’ll come forward and let the Great Falls Police Department or the ATF know. That way, we can try to recover some of the damage that was done.”
Anyone with information about the burglary should contact the ATF at 888-ATF-TIPS or the Great Falls Police Department at 406-455-8599. Information can also be sent to ATFTips@atf.gov or through ATF’s website at www.atf.gov/contact/atftips. Tips can be submitted anonymously using the Reportit app, available from both Google Play and the Apple App store, or by visiting www.reportit.com.
This article originally appeared on Great Falls Tribune: Thief steals weapons from Great Falls gun shop; $5K reward for info