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‘Wanted to rob a casino like his father:’ Evacuated businesses react after Bozeman robbery arrest

Posted at 2:18 PM, Apr 30, 2019
and last updated 2019-04-30 16:18:56-04

BOZEMAN – A Belgrade man is behind bars after police in Bozeman say he tried to rob a casino with an explosive device.

We now know that Bozeman City Police say Jacob Burritt, 27, tried to create a diversion at a nearby business first.

This all happened around 10 a.m. on Saturday at Magic Diamond Gaming near the Gallatin Valley Mall.

According to court documents, Magic Diamond was not the suspect’s first stop.

Investigators say Jacob Burritt first visited a Petco store a short distance away, telling the employees there that they needed to call 911 about a possible shooting at the mall nearby.

Surveillance cameras on nearby businesses tracked him after he left.

“It kind of blows me away that anything would happen to this magnitude,” says Michael Churchill, who works near the casino.

According to court documents, witnesses saw Burritt lighting a bottle on fire outside, then running in, demanding money while wearing a mask.

He then fled.

“We just kind of looked at each other and we said ‘I think we should get out of here,’” says Cindy Sywassink, a florist at Budget Bouquet next door. “We had a couple of customers in. We were doing our work and, all of a sudden, heard all of the sirens coming and thought, oh, that’s a lot of sirens for just going down Huffine.”

Sywassink was helping customers and preparing flowers for prom at her flower shop; its eastern wall rests only a few yards from the casino.

“We kind of locked our doors, make sure no one can come in that we didn’t want to come in,” Sywassink says. “We just notified everybody, all of our customers that we hadn’t serviced yet to let them know that, ‘Your flowers are done, they’ll be sitting in our outside hallway, waiting for you to pick up.’”

Businesses like Budget Bouquet around the casino were evacuated by police.

Those working inside say the sight of panic through their front door window was not one they expected.

“There was panic in the people that were out in the parking lot, the workers,” Sywassink says. “You can just tell it was a hustle-bustle that we had a serious situation going on.”

Police say they found a cologne bottle with a gasoline-soaked wick on the casino’s counter and over $1,500 in fire damage.

They also found a safe — moved, but not opened.

After a Gallatin County Sheriff’s Deputy found Burritt’s car parked nearby, other deputies surrounded Burritt and arrested him.

Court documents show that according to Burritt’s ex-wife, Burritt “wanted to rob a casino in a similar fashion as his father had robbed a casino – by creating a diversion nearby the casino and then committing the robbery.”

“Luckily, it didn’t go any further but it’s just really odd,” Churchill says.

Churchill adds that police, including the Lewis and Clark bomb squad, worked quickly.

“Really good to see the police were on it and they had things directed in the right direction,” Churchill says.

No one was hurt and Burritt is now facing a possibility of more than 80 years in prison if convicted on all charges.

Mindy Stoflet, owner of ReThink Thrift across the road, says this was a situation no one along Huffine Lane wants to get close to again.

“Especially with that explosive,” Stoflet says. “I mean, it’s getting real. We just need to be more cautious.”

Police say he was high on meth and they did find meth in his car when they found him.

The corporate manager of Magic Diamond Gaming told MTN that his primary concern was the casino’s guests and team members, adding that the staff followed all safety procedures and he truly appreciates the quick response from Bozeman law enforcement.

Reporting by Cody Boyer for MTN News