Thieves return truck

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The Jaramillo’s Plumbing crew returned from a job in Reserve at 7 p.m., Nov. 26 to find the gate to the business pushed down and Robert Jaramillo Jr.’s work truck ransacked and damaged.

Little did anyone know what other havoc the robbers had wrought.

Jaramillo said he found his truck parked in its usual spot at the back of the business, but something seemed fishy.

“The key was in the ignition in the on position,” he said. “And there were broken lights, but no plastic on the ground.”

The truck had been thoroughly trashed — a large metal tool box had been ripped loose from the truck bed, pried open and ransacked. Even the ashtray — and all the petty cash in it — had been stolen. Pieces of copper tubing were scattered on the ground.

“Everything was gone through,” he said.

Checking the premises, they discovered several rolls of valuable copper tubing missing from the warehouse.

“It was about 400 pounds,” he said.

The crew fanned out in the neighborhood, looking for suspects fleeing on foot, but they found nothing suspicious.

Robert Sr. called the police to report the theft, and they all got a surprise when the officer arrived.

The officer told them the truck had also been involved in an accident on McCutcheon Avenue where the hitch had scraped the road.

“He said, ‘Look at your hitch and you’ll find asphalt,’” Jaramillo Sr. said.

Sure enough, a wad of blacktop was stuck under the hitch.

Jaramillo Jr. said the officer then showed them the handle to the truck’s tailgate — which they saw was missing. Blue paint marks on the truck’s bumper matched the color of the car hit in the accident.

Minutes earlier, the officer had been called to the scene of a hit-and-run accident involving a parked car at the Phillips’ residence on McCutcheon.

Lois Phillips said she returned home after dark that day and noticed the Plexiglas windows in her garage wall were broken. Then she saw that the MG sports car normally parked in front of the garage was missing. She called her son to check about the car, but he reported he had not taken it. He came over to help her investigate.

The garage wall was demolished, and they found the car in the workshop. It had been pushed in all the way through to the back wall.

“A supporting pole, a six-foot by six-foot post, had been pushed back two feet,” she said. “And there was a square mark where the trailer hitch had indented it.”

Neighbor Dave Torres went over to see what was going on, and showed them deep tire marks in his gravel driveway.

That’s when they noticed a big gouge in the pavement between the two driveways.

The truck had apparently turned into the Torres’ driveway and then backed out, traveling all the way across McCutcheon into the Phillips’ driveway.

“The officer estimated the truck was going between 25 and 30 miles per hour in order to have caused that much damage,” she said.

Jaramillo Sr. thinks the thieves were monitoring his business that day and knew the crew was gone. In addition, he said they knew exactly where everything was located — the truck keys on the floorboard in the front and the copper tubing in the workshop.

“They must have been watching us,” Jaramillo Sr. said. “They knew where the copper was. They went straight to where it was, And they knew Robert’s truck.”

He told the officer a man known to him had approached him earlier asking for $40 to pay his past due electric bill. The man seemed high on drugs, Jaramillo Sr. said.

The driver crashed right through the Jaramillos’ wrought iron gate at such a high rate of speed that the truck couldn’t negotiate a left turn onto Otero Street.

Jaramillo Sr. said the truck went straight across the street onto the sidewalk, got straddled there briefly, then knocked down a road sign. Skid marks show where it barely missed hitting a fire hydrant before finally getting back on the pavement and continuing west past Sixth Street.

“The fortunate thing is they didn’t kill anyone in that busy intersection,” he said.

Then they drove to McCutcheon Street and turned into the Torres’ driveway.

Phillips thinks the robbers may have thought his driveway extended all the way through to the Salome metal recycling yard on Church Street where they may have planned to sell the copper.

Then something spooked them and they abruptly changed their mind, throwing the truck into reverse.

According to the police report, the responding officer couldn’t pull any fingerprints off the truck, and hasn’t been able to locate the suspect Jaramillo Sr. named.

Jaramillo Sr. said the police have also checked out all of his company’s former employees, but, so far, the department has no leads.

Local scrap metal recyclers T and T Tire and Salome Scrap Metal Recycling have not reported anyone trying to sell copper tubing.

Robert Sr. is still scratching his head about the whole thing.

“Why did they bring the truck back?” he asked. “That is so weird. Somebody has a lot of nerve to take your truck and bring it right back.”

The Jaramillos have installed surveillance equipment and talked to their neighbors, but someone still tried to climb the fence into their yard this past week.

Jaramillo Jr. said a neighbor called to alert them, and they were able to scare off the would-be intruder.

“We’re real boggled by it,” he said.

His dad agrees.

“In 28 years, we haven’t had any serious incidents,” he said. “We get along well with all the neighbors.”

Jaramillo Sr. estimates his losses at greater $5,000.