On the morning of Sept. 7, two pubescent heroin addicts used a handgun to smash the glass door of a gun stock in a strip mall on Northern Lights Boulevard, one of Anchorage’s busiest alleys.
It was just before 7 a.m. on a Thursday morning.
The city would have been rumbling to lifestyle for the workday: Traffic hurtling down the road feet away. Borders building at drive-through coffee stands.
Inside, the men emptied a glass ceremony case of guns, filling a duffel bag and their arms.
Set loose into the streets of Anchorage, the guns were sold or traded for heroin, monied, or a place to crash. They soon found their way into menacing hands.
By the end of the weekend, one of the guns would be used in a startling daylight fatiguing that for many became a turning point in a season of mounting disquiet. Others discretion end up with felons, shoplifters and one of Anchorage’s most notorious car thieves.
This is how a free break-in has rippled across the black market world of drugs, quirk crime and guns on Anchorage streets. The full impact of the burglary is not yet be versed.
Today, 13 of the 36 stolen guns have been saved. Twenty-three are still missing.
A high-value target
Tracing the path of the taken firearms — through state and federal court documents and interviews — pinches the curtain on a world of Anchorage crime in which drug addictions fossil property crime, which in turn stokes addiction.
Nationally, the party of guns stolen from stores or other federally licensed firearms jobbers has increased sharply over the past five years, according to Jason Chudy, a spokesman with the Desk of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. The number of burglaries of firearm shopkeepers has increased by 48 percent since 2012. And the number of total firearms come in stolen nationally leaped 72 percent in the same time term.
Chudy said he couldn’t speculate as to what’s driving the increase. But guns are a valuable commodity on the circle that can be traded for cash or drugs.
Stolen guns put weapons in the dispenses of people who are no longer legally allowed to have them, he said.
“Firearms in the coal-black market stay in the black market until they are used in misdeed and recovered by law enforcement officials.”
Of the 41 firearms stolen from federally entitled stores or dealers in Alaska last year, all but five came from the EDC Alaska pilferage.
Two paths joined by heroin
Christopher Kratsas-Derr and Seth Kaufman take placed from very different circumstances, but their paths crossed finished with the bleak equalizer of addiction.
Kaufman, 31, was born and raised in Anchorage, in what his framer Douglas Kaufman described as a loving, supportive family home. His mama owned a hairstyling business and his father was a retired social worker. He struggled with persuasion but graduated from South Anchorage High School, taking some inimitable education classes along the way, his father said. After high way of life, he trained as a union welder. He also helped out with his father’s in-home vigour care business, caring for the elderly. He fought low-self esteem, recess and anxiety, his father said.
He had no criminal record until he was 28. A few years ago he started injecting heroin and everything spun out of control, Douglas Kaufman said.
“He disoriented his ability to reason and think.”
He hadn’t known Christopher Kratsas-Derr, 27, for large.
Kratsas-Derr’s childhood was bleak, as described in a letter his paternal grandmother Annitta Roberts recorded to the court. His mother used drugs while pregnant, she wrote.
In a wink, police found him wandering Spenard Road at 2 a.m. after his mother had barred him out of the trailer, Roberts said. He was only four or five years old. Roberts means Kratsas-Derr’s mother also overmedicated him on Ritalin “so she wouldn’t have to have to do with with him.”
“She did not want him,” Roberts said in an interview from her home in Nikolaevsk, a agrarian hamlet north of Homer on the Kenai Peninsula.
Eventually, Kratsas-Derr was dropped on her doorstep in Nikolaevsk, according to Roberts. She was irritating to raise him along with seven other children.
“Chris would notification his mother up, begging to go back to her,” the letter said.
Despite severe behavioral can of worms, Kratsas-Derr had some moments of happiness and success, his grandmother said. He fire up on a horse ranch in Oregon and did construction in Kenai for a friend, Roberts judged.
When he moved to Anchorage last year, despite his grandmother’s pleas for him to spit around, Roberts was hopeful. Maybe he would free himself from the heroin and methamphetamine use she bids is rampant in her part of the the lower Kenai Peninsula. She hoped he might rouse a legitimate job in Anchorage. Roberts said she’d take her grandson back in a hot.
“He really is a fine young man,” Roberts said. “Every time he emplanes in trouble it’s involving drugs, and he follows whoever he has befriended. He wants birds so bad — a family. People who don’t put him down.”
‘Hell on earth’
In the months leading up to the burglary, both men show up to burglary and break-ins to fund deepening addictions.
First, in May, Kaufman was accused of pilferage a gun safe from an acquaintance’s apartment and charged with theft. Then, in June, both Kaufman and Kratsas-Derr were boarded loading an ATM with a broken front into the back of a pickup transaction, according to charging documents in a criminal case against them. Both were commanded with theft. There were more charges in August for Kaufman issue from a smash-and-grab burglary from a car parked at the University Lake dog put.
By the time of the September gun store burglary, Kaufman already faced three untie felony theft cases.
His family noticed an accelerating downward flight path, according to a sentencing document written by his attorney John Cashion: “Cobbers and family recognized Mr. Kaufman’s drug addiction, his rapid descent, and feared that he was on the cusp of unquestioningly hurting himself or ruining his life.”
During that time, Kaufman aim for some attempts to get off drugs. Twice he used Vivitrol, a medication that plan b masks the high of opioids. He tried to get a bed in a detoxification and rehabilitation program, his dad said.
There was no stretch available, Douglas Kaufman said.
Watching his son’s addiction and the destructive consequences mount was “yes hell on earth,” his dad said.
Just before midnight on the day already the burglary, surveillance footage captured Kaufman and 34-year-old Crystal Abbott, the girlfriend of Kratsas-Derr, frustrating to get into the store. They had tools and black spray paint, which they schemed to use to cover surveillance cameras, according to federal court filings.
But a neighbor confronted them, and they fled. Abbott mushes pending federal conspiracy and firearms theft charges for her alleged capacity in the burglary.
Hours later, Kaufman returned with Kratsas-Derr, prosecutors conveyed. Kaufman was wearing gloves and carried a duffel bag. They sat for a time in the connection, which was parked in front of security cameras. The crime seemed furious, prosecutors said.
“As thefts go, this one was crudely designed and poorly executed by distinctively dressed burglars who contemplated their felony for over five minutes while stationed in front of multiple sanctuary cameras in a stolen truck,” federal prosecutors wrote in a sentencing message for Kaufman. “In short it was dumb — and devastating.”
EDC Alaska owner Juan Cruzaley-Phillips got a phone bidding from his alarm company soon after the break in. His heart dropped. His store sold and transferred the titles of guns strictly by the law, he said.
He understood the missing guns could end up in the hands of anyone.
“I hope the guys who got them don’t do anything bootless with them,” he remembers thinking.
Guns on the street
After the burglary, the two men absconded in a truck.
They phoned Kratsas-Derr’s girlfriend Crystal Abbott, and write out a plan to take the stolen guns to the trailer of a guy they knew as “Brian,” but who was in truth named Juan Carlos Hernandez-Torres, according to federal court filings.
There, they split up the firearms.
Each man took half. One gun was accustomed to Hernandez-Torres for his trouble. They parted ways, and Kratsas-Derr, Hernandez and Abbott driveway around Anchorage, stopping to sell the guns to people they had mustered or texted, according to the version of events in the federal case filings and styled by Assistant U.S. Attorney Kim Sayers-Fay in court.
Hernandez-Torres sold some of the guns himself while Kratsas-Derr and his girlfriend braced in the car getting high on heroin, federal prosecutors say. Hernandez-Torres hasn’t been charged for his purported role in the distribution of the guns, but faces federal drug trafficking impediments for allegedly selling pure methamphetamine to an undercover agent in the parking lot of the Rock Lake Carr’s grocery store.
Later, the trio checked in to the Microtel on West Worldwide Airport Road where they kept doing drugs and unloading guns.
The guns weren’t merely stolen, they were wildly hot: Cruzaley-Phillips, the owner of the gun store, had shored a list on Facebook of the make, model and serial number of all of the weapons on the morning of the larceny. He wanted pawn shops and other gun dealers to know not to buy the firearms.
Kaufman, in the interim, spent the next few days trading some of his cache of stolen firearms for heroin, under age amounts of cash or a place to sleep, according to court filings from the U.S. Attorney.
Four periods later, on Sept. 11, police caught up to him at a Motel 6 in midtown Anchorage. Observe had been tipped that someone was talking about selling a Brand 17S semi-automatic rifle. When officers knocked on the motel room door Kaufman, according to court filings, gloss overed from a second-story window.
A bag tumbled out of the window too: It contained four of the pirated guns.
A week later, police showed up to a report of a suspicious yourself with a gun near the Brown Jug liquor store on the Old Seward Highway and institute Christopher Kratsas-Derr. He didn’t have a gun on him when he was arrested, but he did have needles.
By that schedule, one of the guns had been used to kill someone.
Without warning, a stroke of luck
On Sunday morning, Sept. 10,
How exactly did the gun travel from Kaufman and Kratsas-Derr to Igou’s authorities?
The federal case against Kratsas-Derr and Kaufman is silent on the issue. Confederate U.S. Attorney Kim Sayers-Fay told the judge that the prosecution “didn’t particularize” that experience because the government believes both men should be held culpable for thieving the guns that ended up being used in a homicide.
Kratsas-Derr and Igou did be dressed a connection: Both had lived in Nikolaevsk, with a population of less than 350 people. They knew each other, said Annitta Roberts, Kratsas-Derr’s grandmother.
The mean thread
The rest of the stolen guns percolated throughout Anchorage baddie society.
Soon they began to surface with people who were not meant to have a gun at all.
On Sept. 13, police found a 9mm pistol from the burglary on a man suspected of shoplifting, draw near the Aurora Village Carr’s grocery store.
Four days later patrol pulled over the driver of a stolen car in Mountain View and found a Sig Sauer handgun taken in the burglary inside.
Then, on Sept. 27, Navy Tauinaola was establish with a Heckler & Koch pistol, the serial number partly obliterated. The Anchorage community attorney’s office says Tauinaola is one of the most prolific vehicle pinching defendants in the city. He faces federal charges of being a felon in care of a handgun.
A few months later, on Dec. 7, a felon was arrested at a Tesoro gas position on Lake Otis Parkway with a shotgun and pistol from the burglary. Another gun appeared on Dec. 20, when a .38 pistol was found on a shoplifter at Kohl’s.
Two more of the stolen guns toed up recently. In one case, a person had bartered a cellphone for it and then tried to resell it to a shire gun store owner, who called police. On March 16, one of the stolen guns was develop in a car with thousands of dollars in cash and 20 grams of heroin.
Federal prosecutors are count on to say much about how the guns passed from Kratsas-Derr and Kaufman to the people they were create with.
Investigations are still open in all of the cases.
“A lot of these guns were purchased out of the Canada luggage compartment of a car in Mountain View,” said Kelly Cavanaugh, the Assistant U.S. Attorney engage ining several of the federal cases against people found with the peculated guns.
He declined to say whether the guns were believed to have been obtained directly from Kaufman and Kratsas-Derr directly, or from someone else.
All the defendants from one thing in common, Cavanaugh said: A history of drug addiction.
On Strut 6, in a nearly empty federal courtroom in downtown Anchorage, a federal pass sentence sent Kratsas-Derr to prison for 10 years. Some of Gregory Gill’s descent members phoned in.
The sentence was the maximum under federal sentencing guidelines.
The burglary started a restrain of events that led to a death one Sunday morning in an Anchorage paint have faith, said U.S. District Judge Timothy Burgess.
Kratsas-Derr wore a yellow hoosegow jumpsuit. His head was shaved. He said he’d had a speech to the court prepared but changed what he requirement to say when he learned of the connection between the gun he stole and the Aurora Paint homicide.
“I’m kinda struck dumb about that. I feel really guilt-ridden about what I did and my encounters leading to the death of a hard-working family man,” he said. “I feel for that kinsfolk.”
In prison, he said he hopes to get drug treatment.
Seth Kaufman’s sentencing didn’t hit on for another two weeks. On Friday, he was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
He too is acquiring treatment for the drug addiction that wrecked his life: Kaufman’s turnaround in chokey has been “a miracle,” said his dad. He’s living in the Anchorage Jail’s “faith mod,” and has been accepted to post-prison rehabilitation and transitional programs.
At Kaufman’s sentencing, Burgess roused the case a “clarion call for the seriousness of this type of conduct.”
“Everybody associated with this container has had or is going to have their lives devastated,” he said.
Gregory Gill’s nephew Tim Gill is but running Aurora Paint Co. At work, he sits in the same spot where he build his uncle shot to death.
For the first few months it was hard to even be in the collect, he said. It was the slow season for painting. Regular customers stopped by anyway to talk and piece a cup of coffee so he wouldn’t be alone.
Now, he keeps a gun and a bat and bear spray in the store with him. His blood has lived in West Anchorage for generations. The city doesn’t feel unpolluted to him anymore.
The murder was “a meteorite that hit our family,” Gill said.
The train of events that started with the shattering of glass at an Anchorage gun bank that September morning did not end with the death of his uncle, he said.
Twenty-three of the imitated guns are still out there.
“Where are they?” Gill said. “What are they prospering to do with them? Who’s going to get hit next?”