TROY, Ill. (KMOV.com) - A string of weekend burglaries targeting gaming stores across the St. Louis area has store owners and their customers concerned and frustrated.
“I think everybody is sad, shocked,” said Sam Bozarth.
Bozarth is the manager and co-owner of Realms of Gaming in Troy, Illinois, one of three gaming stores targeted between late Sunday night and Monday morning. The other locations, Game Nite and Yeti Gaming located in south St. Louis County, also had similar break-ins.
“This is not cool, this is my hometown store,” said Matt Ansley, who is a frequent Realms of Gaming customer.
“Losing a great amount of inventory for any store is going to be a problem but for us, that’s kind of our pride,” said Bozarth.
The suspect stole over $100,000 worth of various trading cards and collectibles, most of which were Magic the Gathering cards. The suspect also caused roughly $10,000 in damage to the store, including destroying their display case and shattering their door.
Bozarth could not share surveillance video pending the police investigation, but they shared some images of the suspect captured on video. Yeti Gaming, another location targeted on the same evening, shared similar photos from their surveillance, depicting what appears to be the same suspect. The Troy Police Department say the suspect is male and was wearing a mask that covered his entire head and face, dark pants and dark tennis shoes. Troy police are currently working with surrounding law enforcement agencies in this case. They believe the suspect was specifically targeting stores that sold gaming cards.
“I’ve personally reviewed it, and from what Yeti games has shown us of their perpetrator, it’s the same guy,” said Bozarth. “Not even questionable. He’s got very distinct shoes. He’s got a bag with three blue stripes on it. Same MO, walks in, hammers the place, grabs the stuff, leaves.”
Crestwood PD say they are investigating the incident at Yeti Gaming, which they also believe happened between Sunday evening and early Monday morning. South County Precinct officers, who responded to the call at Game Nite, say that incident also happened around the same time.
“It’s one thing to hit a Walmart or a big store, but hit a proudly owned store like this, to me it’s a little more personal,” said Ansley.
Earlier this month, another gaming store in St. Peters also had a break-in, the Collector Store. The St. Peters Police Department says 23-year-old Michael Brooks was arrested for that incident and The St. Charles County Prosecutors Office charged him with second-degree burglary, stealing and property damage. For people who shop, trade and game at these stores, they say it is not surprising someone would consider stealing these gaming cards.
“Unfortunately, I think thieves just look to see where the opportunity is and with magic continuing to grow, Dungeons and Dragons continuing to grow, that also brings with it unwanted attention,” said Brad Kemph, who visited Game Nite on Tuesday afternoon.
“The portable nature, they’re so small but can be worth so much,” said Bozarth. “And how easy it is to get rid of them. I mean there’s a whole community. There’s over 30 million magic players in the world.”
Co-owner David McGonigal says another reason could be because of the pandemic’s impact on supply and new demand for trading cards.
"I don't know why they decided to all of a sudden [steal], but I can tell you that the price of a lot of the magic cards has increased in value since the pandemic,” said McGonigal. “Maybe because they're collectable, and the fact that it is a game you can play at home with family."
Patrons like Ansley are now doing what they can to help their local gaming store in need.
“I’m selling some of my cards I have so I can get their stock going, so they can keep business going,” said Ansley.
Realms of Gaming says be on the lookout for anyone trying to sell large quantities of gaming cards, specifically on Facebook marketplace, to you directly, or to a local gaming store.
If anyone observed the suspect that night or has other information, contact the Troy Police Department at 618-667-6731 or email Detective Hays at email@example.com.