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Burglars strike struggling Portage store; owner holds on to hope in customers
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Burglars strike struggling Portage store; owner holds on to hope in customers

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STOCK Police - Police line

PORTAGE — Gurdeep Kaur said she was awoken shortly before 3 a.m. Sunday by a call from an alarm company that someone had just broken into the Zip Foods store she has owned and operated the last 24 years at U.S. 20 and Samuelson Road.

"I came here, I'm crying so bad," she said of her reaction to seeing the front glass door smashed and being held back until police were able to determine that no intruders were still inside.

The break-in came as the small, locally owned business was still struggling to regain footing after being shut down for nearly a year after an alleged drunken driver crashed into the building early on Halloween in 2015, Kaur said.

"All of my customers are like my family," she said, while apologizing for interrupting a call Wednesday morning to share pleasantries with one of those customers. "I love my customers. I am blessed."

WATCH NOW: Suspect sought in Portage vandalism case

Portage police said they responded around 2:56 a.m. Sunday to an alarm at the store and found the front door shattered.

Officers said they had to wait until Kaur arrived on scene with a key to gain access to the building. It was determined nothing was taken from the store, police said.

Surveillance video revealed that a dark Lexus SUV with chrome rims and possibly Illinois license plates had pulled into the store parking lot from eastbound U.S. 20, circled the building and then backed in near the front door, police said. The first person exited the front passenger seat wearing a gray Nike sweatshirt and black pants, followed by a second, smaller person from the right rear passenger side wearing a red sweatshirt and black pants.

Both suspects had hoods pulled up and were wearing face masks and gloves, police said. As they approached the front door carrying bags, the first suspect threw what appears to be a rock at the door and when it didn't break, threw it again breaking the glass.

Register theft foiled

The suspects then further broke their way through the door and into the building where they made an unsuccessful attempt to gain access to the enclosed cash register area, police said. They attempted to enter the enclosed area using the same rock used to smash the front door, but failed.

They then picked up the rock and fled the area in the SUV without taking any items from the store, police said.

A white passenger car, possibly a Pontiac G6, was also on-scene and working in conjunction with the SUV, police said. The car is seen going east on U.S. 20 as the suspects entered the store and is then seen a few seconds later traveling west on the highway.

Kaur said the store's front interior was covered in glass and merchandise was overturned. She estimated the damage would cost $2,000 to repair.

Police are investigating.

During the 2015 incident, a South Haven woman was accused of crashing a pickup truck into the store, according to police at the time. Police said the truck jumped a parking curb, struck an ice chest in front of the store and continued through the glass in the front of the building.

Recent arrests booked into Porter County Jail

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Porter/LaPorte County Courts and Social Justice Reporter

Bob is a 23-year veteran of The Times. He covers county government and courts in Porter County, federal courts, police news and regional issues. He also created the Vegan in the Region blog, is an Indiana University grad and lifelong region resident.

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