Downtown Dover business owner takes action in break-in

Sam Chick was awakened early Monday morning by a man who throw a brick through a window at his Puffster Business on W. Loockerman Street. He chased him with a shotgun until police arrived and apprehended the suspect. (Delaware State News/Mike Finney)

DOVER — Sam Chick got an unexpected guest at his Puffster shop at 115 W. Loockerman St. around 1:30 Monday morning.

That was when Mr. Chick, sleeping on a couch in his apartment on the second floor above his store, woke up to the frightening sound of a brick crashing through the front window of his business.

“I was sleeping on the couch and my apartment’s right above (the shop) and I heard, ‘Bam!’ I was like, ‘What was that? That’s not normal,’” Mr. Chick said. “So, I grabbed my phone, grabbed my shotgun, ran downstairs and then I saw a dude booking around the corner.

“So, I gave chase. At one point I had (the suspect) stopped at gunpoint and then the cop on the phone is arguing with me about having a gun and the dude sees that as a good opportunity to run, so then I keep chasing him and then I ended up over near the Duncan Center and the police pulled up and caught him.”

Mr. Chick said the suspect had taken a hoodie, a couple of pipes and some scented wax melts from his business.

Master Cpl. Mark Hoffman, spokesman for the Dover Police Department, said 38-year-old Jeffrey Harman was charged with third-degree burglary, theft under $1,500, criminal mischief over $1,500 and eventually released on a $3,000 unsecured bond.

However, Mr. Chick said he fears the situation could get worse for small businesses after Gov. John Carney announced Sunday evening that all non-essential Delaware businesses must close by Tuesday morning, according to a stay-at-home order that he issued.

The order, a modification to a prior state of emergency declaration, takes effect at 8 a.m. today and comes as the official number of coronavirus cases in the state climbs to 87.

It also directs people to stay at home as much as possible, venturing out only for essential trips.

“I think because of this shutdown order that the governor, in all his wisdom, decided to do,” said Mr. Chick, “because of that shutdown order now there’s going to be crimes of opportunity. This is what’s going to happen.

“They see it. They see nobody’s around, let me get a brick … it’s ridiculous.”

Tina Bradbury, economic development and operations manager for the Downtown Dover Partnership, wrote a letter to downtown merchants on Monday informing them that she had discussed the incident with Dover police.

In her letter, she wrote, “I know many of you are aware of the break-in that happened at Puffster (Monday) and I wanted to reach out to you all with a few important updates in regards to the situation.

“I spoke with a contact at Dover PD and he said the police department is treating this as a break-in and are not looking at this as an act of looting. They are aware that many businesses are closed due to the current situation and downtown remains a priority so they will be ensuring that they continue to patrol the downtown area. He said that with less of the normal everyday activity it is easier for them to spot those committing acts of crimes.”

Mrs. Bradbury reminded the downtown business owners that the police have an entire city to cover and to report suspicious activity as soon as they see it. She also advised them to remove any loose bricks they might see in front of their stores.

Mr. Chick, who celebrated a birthday on Monday, said he was still shocked by the brazen display of somebody throwing a brick through his window and added that most business owners never expect to be broken into.

“Honestly, (on Sunday) I sent a message,” he said. “We have a Downtown Dover Merchants Group and I sent a message to everybody saying, ‘Hey, do you want somebody to check on your store? I live right here. Send me a message and I’d be happy to go scope it out for you.’

“Little did I know it was going to be me that they got.”

Mr. Chick had the broken window boarded up by 9 a.m. Monday and was prepared to re-pen the business later in the day.

He said that as an essential health business — Puffster — will remain open and keep its normal hours, but its hookah lounge will be closed.

There were nearly 400 responses on Mr. Chick’s Facebook page by noon on Monday regarding the incident.

Matt Snitch wrote, “This sucks. I love Puffsters. I’m sorry that this happened to such a good group of people. The sad part is this is just beginning. I hope the other shops in the area take notes and lock up tight. Dover is full of (people) that are going to try to profit from this shut down.”

Amy Zook posted, “So sorry Sam! This has me so angry! Praying for our community and state to stay safe and not resort to more of this stupidity!”