Kyle's Market vandal says the window smashing was in response to "poison" cigarettes

Surveillance photos of Christenson from Kyle's Market.
Surveillance photos of Christenson from Kyle's Market.

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Since someone smashed the windows of Kyle's Market and Calhoun Pet Supply in the early morning of June 12, the owner of both shops, Fuliang Zhou, who goes by Joe, has been on edge, waiting for police to catch the culprit.

Last week, police took Matthew A. Christenson into custody on felony charges for property damage at the two stores. Now, Joe says, "I can sleep well at night again."

The arrest came three days after Christenson called Joe and demanded he meet him in a park. Joe refused and asked why he was calling, and Christenson said repeatedly, "you know what this is about." He finally broke down and gave away his motive: "The Newport 100s," he said, according to a criminal complaint filed against him. "This is why your store is all messed up, because you are selling poison cigarettes."

Joe called police, but they didn't have to look far for Christenson. Later that day, he showed up at 5th Precinct headquarters and, according to the complaint, reported that he had bought tainted Newports from Kyle's Market.

Two days later, police arrived at Christenson's apartment. He wouldn't let them in, but told officers that he had been getting tampered cigarettes from Kyle's Market "for some time," per the complaint.

He also said two other things that helped put the situation in context: That he had bought pizza he believed was laced with hallucinogens, and that he was bipolar, "but does not take his medication," says the complaint, "because he believed that the medication is tainted, as well."

The next day, police returned to Christenson's apartment with a search warrant, and found a mallet with a metal head and glass fragments on it. The search also turned up a tan towel with tape fragments on the corners, "consistent with" the face covering worn by the window smasher in the surveillance footage. There was a box with many packages of unopened Newport 100s and a notebook that documented Christenson's poisoning.

A surveillance still of the vandalism unfolding, taped to the wall in Kyle's Market.
A surveillance still of the vandalism unfolding, taped to the wall in Kyle's Market.

Joe remembers Christenson from the store. "He was a weird guy," he says. "I've seen him about four times, and so has my wife. He always had a beard, sunglasses, a baseball hat, and he always wanted to test his cigarettes. He would come in and ask to squeeze the packs before he bought them."

On Tuesday, Joe finished replacing the broken windows. He does have insurance, but says that, after the repeated vandalism, paying for the windows himself may be just as much as his deductible. The new windows cost $5,400, but the community has contributed $2,100 through fundraising cans at area stores and donations directly to Joe.

Craig Planting, a neighbor who helped Joe raise money to replace the windows, calls the situation "too weird to be real." "[Christenson] shopped at the store for a long time," he says, "and he was always an eccentric guy, but we never thought he was evil."

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