Cowboy hats, masked men and juveniles have terrorized the Twin Lakes Puerto Vallarta restaurant in Federal Way.
Since February 2023, there have been five break-ins at the restaurant at 2002 SW Campus Drive. According to manager Edgar Vega, whose mother owns the restaurant, the break-ins are responsible for about $24,500 worth of damages and losses. Vega said a couple of break-ins a year is typical, but not five break-ins over four months.
The Federal Way Mirror newspaper received police reports, video footage and records associated with each break-in through a public records request. The records show no suspects listed or arrests.
Vega also said he has yet to receive an update from the Federal Way Police Department regarding any of the break-ins, despite security footage showing the identity of the same suspect at two different break-ins. According to the police department, as of July 24, all five cases are no longer being investigated and are considered inactive.
The first break-in was on Feb. 8 when four armed suspects in a white van broke into the restaurant. Vega said they spent about 10 minutes inside the restaurant attempting to cut open the ATM with no success.
“They came in, and they used some kind of machinery to try and cut through the steel,” Vega said. “Those guys had guns. They came in like a video game, holding their guns up and pointing around. Luckily there was no one in the building.”
Vega said he and the employees were afraid because guns were involved in the break-in. He said there are nights when he doesn’t leave the restaurant until late, so he thought, “What if I was in there? What if someone got shot?”
He said with the recent murders at the Stars Bar and Grill in Federal Way, the burglars carrying firearms worry him. Vega said the bartenders don’t feel entirely safe working, and the restaurant has taken extra safety measures, such as locking the doors when closing and having more than one staff close the bar.
The second break-in on April 7 was similar, with an attempt to meddle with the ATM, although this time, the burglars were more successful. Two people in a stolen truck wearing ski masks, one wearing a cowboy hat, pulled up to the side of the Puerto Vallarta and forced open the side door. From there, they used a wire attached to the truck bed to rip the ATM out of the building. Vega said this burglary caused extensive damage and cost a significant amount to fix.
“It was about $20,000 [of damages]. The ATM was in a hallway more central to the building, so when they tied it up and yanked it out, they took out a whole wall, booths, tables, chairs, and it actually moved one of the exterior walls out a couple of inches when the ATM exited the door. So it did cost quite a bit of damage,” Vega said. The ATM was not a financial loss to the restaurant because it belonged to a third party, Vega said.
Break-ins for liquor
After these two break-ins with the ATM as the target, there were three consecutive break-ins resulting in hundreds of dollars in stolen liquor.
These break-ins took place on April 17, April 24, and May 27. Vega said the liquor cost was not much compared to the thousands of dollars of damage each time the liquor was stolen. Each time the suspect broke into the restaurant, he got in by breaking a window on the side of the building. It cost the restaurant about $1,500 each time to fix the window.
Frustrated, Vega jokingly said after the break-ins, he just wanted to leave the liquor outside the door to prevent break-ins. The three break-ins, Vega said, may have involved the same suspect from the first break-in. According to the police report, the burglars are believed to be juveniles.
The footage from the first break-in shows a male with his face uncovered, and in the third video, there are two suspects, one covering his face with a hood, and the other suspect with his face uncovered, appearing to be the same suspect from the first break-in.
Footage from the second break-in shows two suspects wearing masks, but Vega said he thinks the suspects from the second break-in are the same people from the third break-in, and one of the suspects is the same person as the first break-in.
“That’s what makes me so upset. We know he lives down here in these apartments right next door,” Vega said. “He’s young because he’s not looking for money. He comes in, and he steals liquor, two or three bottles of liquor, causing thousands of dollars worth of damage for 100 bucks or less of liquor.”
Vega said he often sees the suspect walking past the restaurant. He said through security camera footage, they saw the suspect walking by the restaurant, and the suspect said to his friend, “That’s the bar I broke into. I threw a rock through the window.” All of the security footage from each liquor theft break-in shows the suspect coming from, and running toward, the same apartment complex behind the restaurant.
Vega said he told the police that he had seen the main suspect walk by the restaurant, and they told him to call the police if he saw him. He said by the time he told the non-emergency line and the police arrived, the suspect was gone.
“There was a time when I called the non-emergency [line], and I was telling this lady, ‘Hey, I saw the suspect, he’s walking through the parking lot, he’s broken into this building three times,’ and she said, ‘OK what exactly are you reporting? Is he breaking in now?’ I told them no, and she said, ‘Well, what exactly do you want us to do?’ Vega said. “That made me so mad, so upset. She made it seem like I was burdening her.”
Vega said he doesn’t feel like the Federal Way Police Department has helped him at all. He said they respond to the scene and write a police report, but then nothing happens. He said he told the police department he knows which apartment complex the suspect lives at because the suspect always comes and leaves from the same apartment complex, but he still hasn’t heard anything back. Vega said this sends a message to the suspect to try it again.
“I almost feel like it’s inevitable. After the third time and having so many break-ins and robberies in such a short time span, I just don’t know what to do,” Vega said. “I would like to know what the next steps are, but as I said, I don’t feel like we’ve been receiving much help from the police.”