AUBURN, Wash — Police in Auburn released surveillance video of a suspect they believe has been living in the rafters of a grocery store for weeks, emerging only to steal from the store, then returning to a hiding place somewhere above the store.

Auburn Police Commander Mike Hirman said video shows a person dressed in black, wearing a face mask, and walking the aisles of the Haggen Northwest Fresh Market, while carrying a black bag filled with thousands of dollars in cigarettes stolen from the store.

Grocery store squatter
Haggen

Hirman said the suspect first came to their attention on Christmas Day when police were called about what they thought was a burglary at the store. Officers found evidence that someone had accessed a vent in the roof of the store, including some jackets, gloves, tools and debris. Later, police discovered a length of rope near the entry point.

It wasn’t until employees reported hearing footsteps overhead in the store and seeing a man’s legs dangling from the ceiling of a storage closet that police determined the suspect was squatting in the store.

Mystery rafters
KING

Police were called to the market twice on January 15 and once each on January 16 and 17. Each time, they’ve discovered new evidence.

“We found where someone had been,” said Hirman. “There’s ventilation that had been moved and tracks that had been moved. We spent probably about 4.5 hours up in the rafters trying to hunt this guy down.”

Hirman said police have even used heat-mapping infrared technology and K-9 units to try to find the suspect, to no avail.

Grocery store squatter
Haggen

“It’s very difficult. There are many, many little hiding places where he could’ve been,” said Hirman. “It’s such a large store and it’s very crowded with venting and everything.”

Customers said the situation sounded like something out of a movie.

“I think I heard in an international airport, someone was living in the airport and hiding at night and coming out, but never in the supermarket,” said customer Trevor Holmes.

“I think he’s clever if he’s homeless and has got nowhere to go,” said customer Sarah Boll. “I think he’s found a safe spot. For now.”

The video, obtained exclusively by KING 5, chronicles the mystery of the grocery store squatter: