KELLOGG — The Kellogg Police Department reports that on Nov. 10, it was discovered thousands of crystals and other Bunker Hill Mine artifacts had been stolen from a residence on Railroad Avenue in Kellogg.
Bob Hopper Jr., owner of the stolen items, heard the news while in Montana on Friday and responded to the situation by driving back to Kellogg and getting the authorities involved.
The Shoshone News-Press was present when Hopper first saw the extent of the theft first-hand.
“This is my family’s legacy here, we have sacrificed so much for this and to see it like this is just devastating for our family,” a visibly shaken and tearful Hopper said.
“We’re going to catch these (expletive).”
According to Kellogg Police Chief Dave Wuolle, entry to the building was gained from a rear window, then the thieves made their way through the building.
The house that was broken into has been used by Hopper to store the Bunker Hill Mine artifacts in the hopes of one day using them to create a Bunker Hill Mine Museum.
“All of this here is for the museum,” Hopper said.
“This isn’t like just stuff that belongs to me, it belongs to the mine, it belongs to my family, and it belongs to this community.”
The building housed (possibly) the world’s largest collection of pyromorphite crystals, a rare mineral that has deep ties to Shoshone County.
Hopper believes the amount of pyromorphite that was stolen is valued between $500,000 and $1 million.
Personal belongings that specifically belonged to members of the Hopper family were taken as well.
Following the burglary, Hopper and his family took to social media hoping to find out more information about the incident.
The effort paid off.
“We were able to get a name,” Hopper said during a phone call Friday night.
“We could see some of our stuff, but we can’t touch it until we get a warrant.”
It took longer than what Hopper had hoped for, but on Saturday just before 3 p.m., KPD with the assistance of the Shoshone County Sheriff’s Office executed a search warrant on the residence of Joshua Easley, 39, of Kellogg.
During the search, law enforcement discovered some of the stolen items and arrested Easley.
“We recovered a lot of the pyromorphite from Mr. Easley’s residence,” Wuolle said.
“We don’t know how much was taken exactly, but we believe that we recovered 50 to 75 percent of what was stolen.”
As of Monday, Nov. 13, none of the recovered artifacts and crystals have been returned to the Hopper family as previously reported by other media outlets.
The recovered items are currently being treated as evidence in the continued investigation.
According to the Idaho Repository, Easley is being charged with theft by receiving or possessing stolen property.
He has a extensive history of criminal activity in both Shoshone and Kootenai counties that includes multiple theft convictions, one as recent as June 28, 2017.
KPD believes that Easley did not act alone in this incident and that he and his confederates are responsible for numerous other thefts across the Silver Valley.
In response to the theft, Greg Green, Kellogg native and CEO of Fatbeam, LLC, announced on Monday that he has pledged to donate $1,000 through the “Greg Green Foundation” to help support the creation of the Bunker Hill Mining Museum that Hopper wishes to build.
“This community has suffered enough trials and tribulations over the years in its rich history of mining,” said Green.
“They work hard and risk their lives to make a living with dignity, and to have part of their history stolen absolutely breaks my heart. After all, my grandfather Vincent Wolfe worked at Bunker Hill Mine, an immigrant of Germany.”
Fatbeam is a Northwest fiber optic network provider that delivers connectivity to education, government, healthcare and business/enterprise customers in five western states.
Green added that “we hope the donation will inspire the safe return of the stolen items that are irreplaceable, and will be useful in helping restart the planned museum. We also want to honor Robert Hopper Jr. and his family for their dedication to the community.”
The Shoshone News-Press will continue to follow this story and provide more information as it becomes available.