Saanich police arrest man after 159 guns stolen from outdoor store
Feb 07 2012
Sgt. Dean Jantzen, Saanich Police conducts a press conference regarding a major firearms seizure in Victoria, B.C. February 6, 2012.Photograph by: Darren Stone, timescolonist.com
Saanich police have arrested a manager at Island Outfitters who is accused of ordering 159 guns as part of the store's inventory and stealing them for his personal collection.
Lucky Jhagra, 40, was arrested Thursday and a search of his Shelbourne Street residence that evening turned up a cache of 159 guns, including rifles, shotguns, Glock pistols, antique revolvers, a semi-automatic assault rifle and a collector's-edition Desert Eagle hand-gun.
Saanich police seized the guns, which combined are worth at least $250,000, and showed them at a press conference Monday. Police also seized 400 boxes of ammunition, crossbows and fishing and hunting paraphernalia, all of which they believe to be stolen.
Jhagra, a self-described gun enthusiast, is well-known among local gun owners and hunters. He is a firearms instructor and an executive member of the Victoria Fish and
Game Protective Association.
Past-president Bob Macdonald said Jhagra is "well-known and well-respected" within the association and often brought up safety concerns at executive meetings.
Jhagra specialized in shotgun and skeet shooting, and enjoys hunting
and fishing, Macdonald said.
Jhagra taught the Canadian Firearms Safety course for people seeking non-restricted and restricted possession and acquisition licences.
Dave Mitchaud, the association's chief range safety officer and a master instructor of that course, said there is a rigid screening process to become an instructor.
"Usually, the idea is that you're an upstanding citizen," Mitchaud said.
Macdonald, who is often in Island Outfitters signing up new members, said he was in the store just after Jhagra was arrested. "It's just so completely out of character," Macdonald said.
"Everyone is scratching their heads on this one."
Police were tipped off by an owner of Island Outfitters Thursday afternoon, after inconsistencies in a year-end audit led the owner to suspect a
massive theft, said police spokesman Sgt. Dean Jantzen.
Jhagra worked at the store for four years and was a "long-term, trusted employee" who had access to the store's keys, ordering information and inventory system, Jantzen said.
"The store is the victim of a ... scheme here to divert these [firearms] from their lawful, legal stock," Jantzen said.
Police are still cataloguing the guns but don't believe any were sold. "We don't have information any [of the guns] have been diverted to illicit use," Jantzen said.
It appears the guns were a personal collection and some have never been fired, Jantzen said. Most were stored in proper safes or cases, but some were stored unsafely.
Island Outfitters is a popular sporting goods store, at 3319 Douglas St., that sells guns, crossbows and hunting and fishing equipment.
Store co-owner Darren Wright said for a small business like his, a loss of a quarter of a million dollars in merchandise over four years "destroys us."
"It's very hard. I'm just a small-business owner trying to make a living and trying to find out why you're not making any money."
Police say a remarkable thing about this case is that all the guns were registered through the long-gun registry. They praised the registry as a valuable tool in tracking and accounting for all the weapons.
"Access to the long-gun registry has been critical to advancing the speed of this investigation," Jantzen said.
The Conservative government is set to pass a bill that would kill the long-gun registry, despite protests from opposition parties, the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police and victims-rights groups who say the registry saves lives.
Jhagra has a firearms licence and no criminal record. There are no restrictions on how many firearms a person can
He has yet to be formally charged and was released on a promise to appear in court to face weapons-related charges and a charge of theft over $5,000.
When reached at his home, he refused to comment and declined to give the name of his lawyer.