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Photo by Ryan Howard

Forest Jewelers was the scene of an armed robbery earlier this month. The robber is still at large.

In the three weeks since Forest Jewelers owner Mike Chilson and his daughter were robbed at gunpoint in the jewelry store, he can still scarcely believe it happened. The business has suffered break-ins before, but this was something different.

“I never thought, ever, that we would get armed robbed,” Chilson said.

The day of the crime, Jan. 8, was an otherwise nondescript day at the store. Around 4 p.m., Chilson and his daughter, Alex Orseske, were selling a ring to a couple; the four of them were the only people in the store. Then, a man walked in, coming from around the other side of the strip mall in which Forest Jewelers is located. He milled about until the ring-buying couple left. Chilson said he walked into the back, at which point Orseske asked the man if she could help him – and he stuck a handgun in her face.

“We wanted ‘the effin’ money,’” Chilson recalled of the man’s statement. “[He said,] ‘I’m gonna effin’ kill both of you guys.’”

Chilson said the man did not ask for any of the jewelry items in the store, nor did he demand either of the pair’s wallets or personal effects. Chilson retrieved cash from the business’s till and safe and handed it over to the man.

“He turned around and walked out here like nothing happened,” Chilson said.

While he said he and Orseske are shaken, Chilson was happy that no one was hurt – and that there were no customers in the store at the time of the robbery. Chilson declined to say how much was stolen, though he said the robber’s take was larger than it normally would have been because the family had only recently returned to Forest Lake from a Christmas stint in Florida and hadn’t made a bank deposit recently.

“In most cases, I do not have a lot of money here,” he said.

Chilson said he believed Adevia SpaSalon on the other side of the strip mall picked up footage of the robber getting into a black SUV, though the Forest Lake Police Department declined to release any images from security video when contacted by The Times. Police told The Times the robber’s description was a black man wearing a hoodie and a bright vest. Chilson said he believed the man to be about 6 feet, 2 inches tall, and that the hoodie was white and the vest appeared to be a green construction vest.

For now, police declined to share too many details because the incident is still under investigation. Chilson said the robbery has changed his perspective on what is possible in the community and led him to install security cameras in the store.

“People [have] got to be aware of their surroundings,” he said.

Personally, Chilson believes the business may have been cased earlier in the day by a few individuals he believed to be suspicious. He said one sat by a display in such a way that she might have been able to see some of the money in the store – a possible explanation for why the robber only wanted money.

Burglary

In other crime news, the Forest Lake Police Department is investigating the burglary of a shed in which an unknown perpetrator made off with thousands of rounds of ammunition.

According to police, the owner of the shed (located in the 100 block of Lee Street) made the discovery the morning of Jan. 18. Sometime overnight, someone broke into the shed and stole an estimated 2,000 to 3,000 rounds of .22 ammo, 1,000 rounds of 9 millimeter ammo and .45 ammo, 500 rounds of 44 magnum ammo and an unknown amount of trap load shotgun rounds – most of them in their original boxes. A 900-watt two-cycle generator was also stolen.

Upon further inspection, the victim discovered that his truck had also been entered by the burglar. A GPS, $30 in quarters and a set of spare keys were taken from inside the truck.

Ryan Howard was the news editor of The Forest Lake Times from August 2014 through January 2020. These days, he writes culture pieces for The Times and works as an editor for a Minnesota board game company.

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