Late Monday night, a man wearing a “Res Alaska” logo jacket entered the Alaska Buds store on Third Avenue in Bethel, carrying a duffle bag and an M16-style rifle, police said on Tuesday.
The man appeared to be uncoordinated in his movements and was possibly intoxicated. He placed the duffle bag on the counter in what appeared to be an attempt to rob the establishment, and then fired several shots, with the first few hitting the floor of the store. The man jumped over a display counter and took approximately $300 in merchandise and fled the store in an unknown direction. One employee was shot and taken to the hospital, and the alleged robber is still at large.
Bethel Police Department is actively investigating the incident and those who have helpful information regarding this incident can report it to the police at 907-543-3781. This is possibly the first armed robbery of a marijuana store in Alaska that involved an injury, although robberies and thefts at marijuana stores are on the rise, according to several sources.
Some members of the Bethel community were upset that it took so long for the police to issue a press release or a warning that there was an armed and dangerous man on the loose.
Alaska Buds was the first marijuana store in Bethel, opening in January of 2020. Its founder is Nick Miller, who chairs the Alaska Marijuana Control Board. In February of 2020, Kusko Kush opened its doors for business across the street. The city has 6,325 residents and is a commercial hub for the region.
The last major robbery in Bethel was Nov. 11, 2021, when the Alaska USA Federal Credit Union branch inside the Alaska Commercial Company store. Ezekiel Thomas, age 34, was arrested about an hour later in that incident, which did not involve a weapon.