Former go-cart owner's wild ride is over

Long Beach Officer Rodney Nawn searched a storage room at Long Beach Go Karts in early April 2017. Robert ‘Tony’ Merrill was sentenced Friday, Feb. 8, to six years, ending the long-running case.

PENINSULA — Allegations surrounding Long Beach Krazy Kars owner Anthony “Tony” Merrill just keep getting “krazier.”

Police now suspect that, in addition to dealing drugs from his downtown Long Beach go-kart, bumper car and moped rental facilities, Merrill, 52, was the driving force behind a major burglary in January, a scramble to keep cops from finding a large cache of stolen weapons, and a May attempt to sell $15,000 in stolen firearms to an undercover cop. The failed sale led to the arrests of at least four men.

However, they can’t ask Merrill if he was involved — he has been “in the wind” since failing to show up for a May 19 court hearing, according to Pacific County Prosecutor Mark McClain. There is now is a nationwide warrant for his arrest.

In late January, a man went to check on his brother’s home in Ocean Park, and found the back door swinging open. It quickly became clear that the property had been burglarized.

Inside the house, drawers and a gun cabinet were open. Numerous items were missing, including a jewelry box and a silver tea service. In the master bedroom, a filing cabinet had been ransacked.

The man told police “it looked like a bomb went off” inside his brother’s workshop. A green El Camino and boat motor were gone. A large safe that had contained “a vast amount” of guns, and a smaller safe containing ammunition had been “totally destroyed.” The burglars had also taken coins and silver.

As he took in the scene, the brother remembered that just as he arrived, he’d heard two male voices coming from the property next door, before a car started up and sped away.

Pacific County Sheriff’s Deputy Rick Goodwin quickly realized this burglary was different from the hasty “smash and grab” crimes he usually dealt with.

“The moment I walked in the shop, I knew exactly how they got into the safe,” Goodwin wrote in his report. A distinctive, familiar odor made him instantly recall a long-ago job, assembling trucks.

“The smell I recognized was the smell of a grinder on metal,” Goodwin said. He found gouges from a grinder and crowbar all over the safe, and the blue tinge from a torch on the damaged hinges. Thieves had used a cutting torch to destroy the smaller safe.

Outside, Goodwin noticed a mole hill that had been kicked over and box of ammunition scattered on a small trail. He followed the trail to an old motor home on the neighboring property.

When the owner arrived from Arizona two days later, he discovered that financial records, tools, knives and documentation for the guns were missing, too.

The burglars had used the man’s own grinder to break into his safe.

A week later, a man named Carter Strever called Goodwin. Sounding panicked, Strever, 48, allegedly told the deputy “the burglary was not his idea.” Eventually, he explained that he was supposed to act as a lookout for the Ocean Park burglary, but he’d gotten mad and left. Strever reportedly said one of the men who broke in was named “Kirt,” and the other was Richard Quartier. He said he and Quartier, 57, had both previously lived in RVs on the victim’s neighbor’s property.

The neighbor, George Kopp, told Goodwin that three weeks before, Strever had suddenly given Kopp his motor home, and asked for a ride to the Astoria Bridge.

Around the same time, the victim said went to Kopp’s house to ask him about the burglary, he saw his own stolen powder horn hanging on the wall. Kopp gave it back, and said he’d found it inside the motorhome.

The day after the raid on Merrill’s home and businesses, police served a warrant at his unit at a local storage facility. They didn’t find any guns.

A source told PCSO Detective Ryan Tully that Jeffrey Walton, the manager of the storage facility, had covered up the surveillance cameras, and moved the guns to a different unit. Walton, 57, initially denied having anything to do with the guns, or with Merrill, but later admitted to knowing Merrill, according to police documents.

The burglary investigation stalled out.

In late April, deputies met with a woman who claimed to know Merrill very well. Facing legal problems of her own, she volunteered to work as a “confidential informant,” or “CI.”

She alleged that Quartier and Kirt Jones, 54, had done the burglary, with help from Kopp. But, she said, Merrill had provided the men with both a cutting torch and an incentive.

According to the CI, when they finally cracked the safe, Jones and Quartier took the guns to Kopp’s house. Merrill allegedly came over the next night, and bought the guns for “four thousand dollars and some dope.” Quartier and Jones split the money.

She also said that shortly after the April 4 raid, Merrill had transferred a storage unit to her name. She claimed Merrill’s collection included the Ocean Park guns as well as guns taken from other places.

Later, investigators learned that when they searched Merrill’s unit, the guns were actually close by, in the CI’s unit. Walton and the CI then allegedly moved them again, to an empty unit.

In late April, Tully served a warrant on units belonging to Walton and the CI, then did a basic search of all the other storage units at the facility, but didn’t find anything.

By early May, the guns had been moved to a unit at a different local storage facility, the CI said. She agreed to help the cops get them.

In a May 10 meeting that included an undercover detective from Oregon, she called Walton and told him she had a buyer who would pay $15,000 for the guns. He agreed to make the sale.

The following day, they sorted out the details: allegedly, Walton would get $11,000, and she would get $4,000 for acting as go-between. She asked for photos of the guns. According to Tully’s report, the pictures showed “assault rifles, pistols and shotguns. One of the firearms appeared to be a sawed-off shotgun.”

That evening, the undercover and the CI went to the second storage facility, where they met two men, Bryan Haberman, 37, and Jeffrey Bean, 20. The men told them the guns would be ready in 10 minutes.

At that point, Tully arrived with two deputies and arrested Haberman and Bean. Inside the facility, Tully said, “I observed at least 20 to 30 firearms laid out on the floor.”

Bean claimed he worked for Haberman’s moving business. He said he didn’t know until he arrived at the facility that his boss wanted him to help move stolen guns.

Haberman said he knew Walton because he had an office at the businesss Walton managed, for which Walton had a key. He claimed that Walton moved the guns into his office after police searched the first storage units. Walton allegedly asked him to help him find a new hiding place for the guns, saying he was moving them on behalf of “Tony.” Haberman allegedly agreed to help in exchange for three guns.

A Long Beach officer arrested Walton. In custody, he allegedly admitted Merrill had moved firearms into his storage unit, then transferred them to the CI. Walton allegedly admitted he moved them several more times to keep police from finding them. He was to receive $4,000 for his trouble.

The Ocean Park burglary victim then identified 12 of his stolen guns, along with ammunition and accessories.

Haberman, Bean and Walton face charges of first-degree trafficking in stolen property and possession of stolen firearms. Haberman faces an additional charge of heroin possession while armed with a deadly weapon.

Quartier was arrested on May 15. Kopp was arrested on May 17, and was recently released on bail. Strever was arrested in Clark County in late May, and transferred to Pacific County Jail. He remains in custody, according to McClain.

Jones has not been apprehended yet, McClain said.

Quartier, Kopp, Strever and Jones face charges of first-degree burglary, theft of a firearm and theft of a motor vehicle.

Arrest and release dates, cities of residence and bail amounts were not available for some suspects, because the Pacific County Sheriff’s Office has removed arrest and booking information from their website.

Merrill was released on $250,000 bail several days after his April 4 arrest. When he failed to show up in May, McClain sought a nationwide warrant for his arrest. He asked that bail be set at $1 million this time, noting in his May 24 request that Merrill “has access to firearms which were not recovered.”

On top of the April drug charges, Merrill now faces charges of first-degree burglary, theft of a firearm and theft of a motor vehicle.

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