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Man charged with stealing masks, sanitizer from Vancouver retirement home
VANCOUVER -- Stealing thousands of masks and a large quantity of hand sanitizer from a Vancouver retirement home may have been part of a weeks-long crime spree by someone taking advantage of vulnerable people amid a pandemic, court records show.
Jesse Ranger Coutlee faces five charges of breaking and entering and theft. He’s accused of breaking into a closed Vancouver bar, rifling through trucks in False Creek parkade, and taking boxes of personal protective equipment.
“It’s as dangerous as you think,” said Cookie Manjit Kaur Johl, who lives in the Terraces on 7th, where the masks and sanitizer were lifted.
She said she was concerned because the facility houses older people, who are more at risk of having a COVID-19 infection turn deadly.
“It’s sad. It’s really sad,” she said.
Police say Coutlee was seen on surveillance video loading several boxes into a vehicle.
“In these boxes were more than 6,000 face masks and large quantities of hand sanitizer,” said Vancouver Police Department spokesperson Const. Tania Visintin.
Another man is thought to have assisted him in selling the equipment on Facebook, she said.
Police officers returned the stolen equipment to the Terraces this week.
Hospitals have been on high alert for thieves who target the gear, which has become more valuable – and harder to come by – during the pandemic.
“Health-care workers are putting themselves on the line every day when they go to work,” Visintin said. “Having the proper PPE at their disposal is vital. Having this taken is extremely frustrating and extremely upsetting.”
Documents filed in Vancouver Provincial Court show Coutlee has been charged with an April 10 break-in at an apartment complex on Moberly Road. A witness told CTV News Vancouver a man that night was looking through a truck in the parkade.
That same day, he is charged with breaking and entering at Sing Sing, a Main Street bar that has closed its doors to comply with public health orders.
Then, on April 27, Coutlee is charged with breaking and entering, theft and possessing break-in tools, all in relation to a dwelling unit on East 26th Avenue.
Lawyer Leslie Anne Wall, who represented Coutlee in a court appearance on Tuesday, said she hasn’t received enough information to comment on the case.
The Terraces says 160 boxes of surgical masks (8,000 in total) and 60 N-95 masks were taken.
“The recent break-in of an emergency storage room and theft of personal protection equipment has left management and staff at Terraces on 7th feeling outraged and terribly disappointed,” said manager Lara Novakovic in a statement.
“The fact that someone would steal the very protection that helps guard residents against COVID-19 for personal gain is beyond comprehension. This incident is even more disappointing because it comes at a time when we are seeing the absolute best in most people during a difficult period,” she said.