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Thief burns rubber, turns himself in

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news Worthington, 56187
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Worthington Minnesota 300 11th Street / P.O. Box 639 56187

GRAND FORKS - A man who stole a motorcycle off a showroom floor has turned himself in to Grand Forks County deputies.

Matthew Charles Tongen, 20, was charged Monday with three felonies -- burglary, theft of property and possession of a short-barrel shotgun -- in connection with a break-in at Andy's Harley-Davidson dealership on North Washington Street and theft of an $18,000 motorcycle.

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Sgt. Gary Grove said deputies on routine patrol discovered the burglary about 3:45 a.m. Sunday. At the scene, they saw that someone had tried to shoot out the lock on a metal side door with a double-paned window.

"He took a 12-gauge ... sawed-off shotgun, put three rounds through it -- two of them went through the glass. And one of them hit the deadbolt that goes in on the frame," store owner Denny Anderson said. "I'm surprised the BBs didn't bounced back and get him."

When Plan A didn't work, it seems the burglar went around front and broke through the glass in the main doors. Once inside the showroom, he started up a 2009 soft-tail rocker using a nearby key. He then hopped on the sought-after bike -- with a dull finish, fat back tire and 96 cubic inches of engine power -- and tried to drive out the shot-up side door. He wasn't able to, but in trying, he broke the bottom hinge and left a burnout mark on the floor. It's believed the burglar eventually took the bike out the service door, Anderson said.

Grove said Tongen drove the stolen bike to Red Lake Falls, Minn., where he lives with his brother and grandmother.

"He contacted his brother and indicated that he probably did something that was not very good," Grove said.

So just a couple of hours after deputies came across the break-in, Tongen, along with his brother, returned to the crime scene and turned himself over to deputies who still were investigating the theft, Grove said.

On Monday morning, the store was open for business, but plywood covered the two entrances as contractors worked to replace the doors. The shot-up and rammed side door lay warped in the parking lot. Anderson said workers had to cut open the mangled door.

In trying to shoot the lock, the burglar also ruined a jewelry case and clothes hanging on racks. But the only thing he took was the bike.

"It looked like he knew what he wanted," Anderson said.

Grove backed up that theory, saying Tongen told deputies he had made plans to steal the bike earlier in the day.

When Tongen drove off, he left his car, a 2003 Pontiac Grand Am, and the shotgun. Both were seized by authorities. The motorcycle was recovered in Red Lake Falls, Grove said.

Anderson said the last time the store, once owned by his father Andy, was burglarized was in the 1970s. He said this recent theft is going to change his approach to security.

Tongen was released from custody Monday after posting $1,500 in bail. His next court date is Oct. 22, according to a jail spokeswoman.

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