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Store owner's unscheduled stop thwarts menthol cigarette thieves

DULUTH -- A second menthol cigarette burglary in two days was thwarted early Friday, Nov. 30, when the owner of the Adolph Store walked in on the suspects and chased them into the clutches of authorities.

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DULUTH - A second menthol cigarette burglary in two days was thwarted early Friday, Nov. 30,  when the owner of the Adolph Store walked in on the suspects and chased them into the clutches of authorities.

“It was intense,” Shaine Stokke said. “You’re not expecting it, but the stars aligned.”

Stokke was fueling his van on the way to pick up his son for a deer hunting trip and had pulled into the store to fuel up shortly after 4 a.m. He unlocked the store to make coffee. In doing so, he heard voices and startled two suspects wearing bandanas on their faces.

Stokke started screaming, “You better hope I don’t catch you.” Stokke tripped over a bread rack thrown down by one of the two suspects, who piled into a GMC Envoy and fled. Stokke pursued in his van, keeping up easily as the suspects vehicle fishtailed along what was an icy Midway Road toward Interstate 35.

Stokke called 911 and was on the phone with dispatchers throughout the pursuit. The Proctor police were the first to intercept the suspects. Stokke did not know how many people were in the vehicle. The Cloquet police and Carlton County Sheriff’s Office deputies also took part in apprehending the suspects, Stokke said.

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On Thursday, the Korner Store in Hermantown was broken into and $6,000 worth of menthol and flavored tobacco products were taken. Owner Derek Medved offered a $5,000 reward for the prosecution of the suspects. Both Medved and Stokke believed the suspects in the attempted Adolph break-in were the same.

“I called Derek right away and said, ‘You owe me $5K’ - what if we just settle for a pizza,” Stokke said. “I don’t know for sure if it’s the same guys, but they raided my menthol cigarettes. The whole shelf was empty. I literally scared them when I walked in. One of them lost his shoes.”

The series of events was serendipitous, Stokke said. He’d woke to a flat-tire on his pickup truck, which he’d fueled and had ready to roll. Not wanting to delay his hunting trip, Stokke transferred his gear into his van, which was low on fuel.

“I worked 36 days in a row to make sure I could leave to go on this trip,” he said. “My son has been getting straight-As, and I told him we were going to get away.”

The suspects broke into the store through louvers in the back of the building that vent the store’s refrigeration units, Stokke said.

While in pursuit, 911 operators told him to refrain, but Stokke said there was no way he wasn’t going to see things through.

“I got so mad,” Stokke said. “I just instantly started screaming and went after them. You work so hard for your stuff.”

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