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Use of stolen cell phone leads officers to suspected burglar; 20-year-old man arrested

Editor's note: A hammer was used to pry open a window at Islands Veterinary Clinic on Mullis Street on Sept. 5, but the interior of the clinic was not damaged, according to clinic personnel. The sixth paragraph of this story has been edited to reflect that fact.

Information about damage to the interior of the clinic was provided by Undersheriff Jon Zerby (“Seven break-ins believed related,” page 1, Sept. 15 Journal).

A 20-year-old man has been arrested in connection with a recent string of burglaries at about a half-dozen Friday Harbor businesses and commercial buildings.

Ryan J. Ritter, identified by authorities as a transient with family ties to San Juan Island, was taken into custody Sept. 17 without incident.

Sheriff Bill Cumming said Ritter was charged with two burglaries at the time of his arrest and will likely be charged with several others once officers complete their investigation.

"There's at least seven that we believe he may be responsible for," Cumming said.

The burglary spree began Aug. 30 on the southeast side of town with the burglary of the Backdoor Kitchen restaurant and nearby Roy's Espresso. The Backdoor Kitchen reportedly lost $1,000 in the burglary, and $25 was taken from Roy's. Two days later, Herb's Tavern was burglarized, and San Juan Wireless, Islands Veterinary Clinic, and Island Hearing and Healthcare were all burglarized over the next six days.

In an earlier interview, Undersheriff Jon Zerby said that the thief or thieves appeared to be mostly after cash, but that computers, cell phones and office supplies vanished from several of the businesses as well.

Zerby said Ritter's arrest was the result of a team effort by deputies and detectives in piecing the burglaries together, and that they were able to crack the case after someone tried to activate a stolen cell phone.

Currently, Ritter is charged with two counts of felony burglary and one count of felony theft. He remains in custody and is expected to be arraigned in court in the near future.

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