Thieves caught when vehicle crashes

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Two Socorro men were arrested for stealing electronics from Walmart when one abandoned the pickup involved following an unrelated hit-and-run crash.

Socorro Police Department detective Sgt. Richard Lopez said the men have allegedly stolen merchandise from the store several times, but they could not be identified with the store’s video surveillance because they knew how to move around the cameras so as not to have their faces captured on video.

“So it took a while to finally catch them,” Lopez said.

Lopez said one man’s arm was finally captured on surveillance video as he placed an empty box on a shelf.

The criminal complaint states Walmart loss prevention staff contacted police Nov. 29 asking officers to try to identify a possible suspect. The loss prevention employee said he had a video of a man Walmart suspected in several recent shoplifting incidents.

Lopez and two other detectives, Rocky Fernandez and Gilbert Padilla, went to Walmart to view the surveillance video. The video, according to the criminal complaint, shows a man take a $450 Nikon camera into the store’s garden center, remove it from its box and put the box on a shelf. The man then leaves the store in a black Ford F-150 pickup. Lopez noticed in the video the left tail light appeared damaged and dimmer than the right, but he was unable to identify the man in the video.

That evening, according to the criminal complaint, when Lopez was off duty and shopping at Smith’s grocery, he noticed a pickup at the Valero gas station that matched the one in the Walmart surveillance video. He saw one man get out of the truck and go inside Valero while another man pumped gas. Lopez watched as the man left the Valero store and returned to the pickup, noting the man also matched the surveillance video.

Since Lopez was off duty and didn’t have the still photos taken from the surveillance video, he could not positively identify the man as the camera thief. He ran the pickup’s license plate, which showed a Grant Street address. Lopez made sure to remember both men’s facial features for future reference, according to the criminal complaint.

The next day, according to the criminal complaint, Lopez told Fernandez about the pickup and men he saw, and to be on the lookout for the pickup. Lopez drove by the Grant Street address occasionally during his shift, but never saw the pickup there.

“We were looking for that truck all day,” Lopez said. “And then the truck just happens to get into a crash.”

The criminal complaint states that about 4:30 p.m. Nov. 30, patrol officers responded to a hit-and-run vehicle crash. The officers were asking for a camera to photograph the damage as their cameras were not charged. Lopez was in the area and responded with a camera, taking photos of the scene. Lopez then went to the location of the vehicle that fled the scene, and met with an officer there. The officer was standing next to the Ford F-150 from the Walmart video, the same truck Lopez had seen at Valero.

Lopez said the pickup had been abandoned at an apartment complex.

The pickup had heavy damage to the front end, matching damage to the vehicle that was hit, according to the criminal complaint. The officer told Lopez that when he found the pickup, there was no one inside but smoke was coming from the cab so he called the fire department. The officer had also called for a tow truck.

Lopez said anytime police have a vehicle towed, they must do a tow inventory to list items in the vehicle to protect the department from liability issues. While doing the inventory, he said he found the Nikon camera, as well as another $1,500 in electronics, in a backpack in the cab of the pickup.

According to the criminal complaint, police confirmed the serial number of the Nikon in the pickup matched the serial number of the stolen Nikon. Lopez then contacted Walmart’s loss prevention staff to tell them the camera was found, as well as several other items that appeared to be stolen merchandise.

Lopez left with the backpack while the patrol officer remained to complete the tow, according to the criminal complaint. A few minutes later, the officer contacted Lopez by radio to tell him the owner of the pickup showed up. Lopez returned and recognized the man immediately as the one who was gassing up the truck at Valero the evening before. Lopez Mirandized the subject, who was identified as Kent Eaker.

Eaker denied involvement, according to the criminal complaint, saying the backpack wasn’t his and he had nothing to do with its contents. He admitted his truck was involved in the theft of the Nikon, explaining he had loaned his truck to a friend — but he did not know the friend’s name. He also said this same friend was driving when the crash happened, but he still didn’t know his friend’s name. Lopez asked the name of the guy who was with Eaker at the Valero gas station the night before, but Eaker said he didn’t know his name.

Lopez said when he arrested Eaker and seized the Nikon, there were photos of both men on the camera.

Meanwhile, according to the criminal complaint, Fernandez learned where the other man was.

The loss prevention employee came to the police department and confirmed all the items in the backpack were shoplifted from Walmart over the previous few weeks, according to the criminal complaint. The stolen items are valued at about $1,545.

While that was happening, Fernandez and other officers found the other man, according to the complaint. He was identified as Cody Fivecoat and was brought to SPD, although he had resisted arrest. Lopez recognized Fivecoat from the surveillance video, but Fivecoat refused to speak to police.

Fivecoat and Eaker were incarcerated at the Socorro County Detention Center.

Lopez said Fivecoat’s case was bound over to 7th Judicial District Court on Dec. 14, and Eaker’s case has been continued for now in Magistrate Court.

 

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