OTTAWA COUNTY, Mich. — Several people are in custody, all under the age of 20, after being arrested for breaking in and stealing thousands of dollars worth of inventory from a smoke shop in Coopersville. Now, authorities could be linking them to multiple burglaries around West Michigan.
Police say three men and one 16-year-old boy burglarized The Funky Monkey Smoke Shop in Coopersville early Monday before leading Ottawa County deputies on a chase. Breanna Nichols, who worked there for years, couldn't believe it when her boss called her Monday morning.
"He said that I needed to get down there quickly, because we had been broken into," Nichols remembered. "He said there was a bunch of glass, and that they had taken all the Breeze Pro vape pens, cash, and like $20,000 worth of products."
"I was completely astonished," she said. "This is how we make a living. This is our livelihood, and you're just taking that from us."
Investigators said the break-in happened around 2:30 a.m. Monday morning, and that it was a tip from a good Samaritan that led Ottawa County deputies to the business.
When deputies arrived, the suspects were leaving the scene in a black SUV, that they later found out had been stolen.
"It makes me really sad," Nichols said. "I'm always so comfortable here. It's my second home, and I'm here almost every single day, and it might take us like a month or two, maybe even three to try to restock everything that we had."
Deputies followed the SUV onto eastbound I-96. They tried to exit in Marne but lost control and crashed. That's when all four of the suspects got out of the SUV and ran.
"An Ottawa County K9 was able to locate the subjects located in a nearby outbuilding, and they were taken into custody," said Capt. Jake Sparks with the Ottawa County Sheriff's Office.
Investigators said all four suspects were males, aged 19, 18, 18 and 16. There was also an unregistered pistol found in the SUV.
Malik Vander, 19, Saivon Mitchell, 18, and Benjamin Orlando Clark III, 19, all of Grand Rapids, are facing breaking and entering charges and obstructing a police officer charges.
The fourth suspect, a 16-year-old boy from Grand Rapids, was referred to juvenile court for breaking and entering.
"We're glad that they're in custody and getting taken care of," said Nichols.
Detectives believe the group that was arrested may also be involved in other crimes and burglaries around the area.
"I can't go into great detail about that right now, because it is still is under investigation," explained Capt. Sparks, "but we do believe that they were involved in other incidents, and we're still piecing together those jurisdictions and matching up evidence."
The Kent County Sheriff's Office said that over the weekend, five similar stores had also been burglarized. Stores at the following locations were broken into:
- 4919 Town Center Dr SE – Cascade Township – vape pens stolen
- 4116 17 Mile Rd NE – City of Cedar Springs – miscellaneous edible goods stolen
- 16 N Main St – City of Cedar Springs – nothing stolen
- 5450 Northland Dr NE – Plainfield Township – money and vape pens stolen
- 3700 Coit Ave NE – Plainfield Township – nothing stolen
Investigators are now working to learn if the suspects are connected to these break-ins.
And just days before the burglary at The Funky Monkey, four teenagers were arrested on Friday, Feb. 3 and are believed to be involved with multiple break-ins. Police said the suspects were seen with two vehicles that were stolen out of Grandville, and were arrested after stopping at a home in Grand Rapids. They are ages 18, 17, 16, and 16, and were charged with possessing stolen credit cards and vehicles, but teens are now being interviewed by county police about a string of burglaries in Kent County.
This comes about two weeks after at least nine stores in Kent County were broken into.
"So is it a possibility that the four suspects arrested in Ottawa County Monday morning were involved in all five of our burglaries," said Sgt. Eric Brunner with the Kent County Sheriff's Office, "absolutely. We just don't know for sure yet."
Both sheriff's departments say they are working together diligently on all of the cases to determine if they are involved with one another, and to catch all of the people involved. Detectives also said it's a concern that a lot of the suspects have so far been very young.
"Many area departments are communicating with one another to try to piece together the timeline of events," said Sgt. Brunner.
"And it's not lost on us the impact that these situations have on these victims, the businesses," he added. "They're left cleaning up glass, things shattered everywhere, and it takes away from their day trying to serve their customers."
"That's why we try to get these things resolved, and to try to get some justice for the small business owners," added Capt. Sparks. "So we're relieved that we caught these four, and hopefully we'll be able to recover some of that stolen property and give it back to the owners."
"Anytime we're able to help out our victims or help make them victims whole again, that's why that's why we do this job," he added.
"I just wish it never happened," said Breanna Nichols, "I wish no one had to go through this."
Both Kent and Ottawa County Sheriff's Offices are asking the public to report any information they may have for these instances, or any others in the area. You can call them directly or report tips anonymously through silent observer.
Ottawa County Sheriff's Office: (800) 249-0911
Kent County Sheriff's Office: (616) 632-6100
Silent Observer: 1-877-88-SILENT (745368) or mosotips.com
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