Here It Is: 2011's 'What Were They Thinking?'
“Bad boys, bad boys, whatcha gonna do? Whatcha gonna do when they come for you…”
Apparently in our community, not always the smartest thing. After reviewing 2011’s Year In Crime,” we decided we could make our own episode of Stupid Crooks – because they definitely left us asking “What were they thinking?”
In no particular order, here were some of the more notable “Hey Martha” incidents of police activity…
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Three residential burglars decided to arrive before 5 a.m. and started removing new appliances from townhouses on Avalon Drive. When neighbors called deputies to report that they’d never seen any appliance installers work a) that early and b) taking equipment out of the building instead of bringing it in, the crooks jumped into their waiting U-Haul trailer and tried to blend into rush hour traffic. They got as far as the Glenoaks Blvd. offramp of the westbound 118, where three brand new refrigerators and three brand new stoves were recovered and three men were arrested.
They weren’t fighting over pepperoni and extra cheese, but bomb squad experts suited up to open a box mysteriously shaped and marked like a pizza delivery box found in an office building on Avenue Crocker just before lunchtime. Hazmat sandbagged the area, traffic was diverted. Arson and Explosives investigators sent in their best team – who determined the box contained food. No hungry owners came forward to claim it, though.
Giving new meaning to the term “bathroom break,” a Canyon Country man faced much more serious charges than he did when he was first taken into custody for possession of heroin. Rousted during a routine probation sweep, Shawn Tolman was seen swallowing the controlled substance and was taken to Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital to “wait things out” (deputies referred to it as “making sure he was medically cleared.”). What they didn’t count on was him taking flight when the nurse asked for a urine sample. Caught walking along Allegro Drive 10 minutes later, Tolman’s booking sheet gained a few more lines and his bail amount, a few more zeroes.
And then there are stories I don’t have to paraphrase: “Sometimes it just doesn’t pay to try and sell your mom’s prescription pills. That’s what put 20-year old Saugus resident Michael Sebesta behind bars Sunday night, after he approached two off-duty sheriff’s deputies in the Kmart parking lot and offered a good price for medication prescribed to his mother. Needless to say, the offer, made shortly before 10 p.m., was negotiated with the deputies confiscating the drugs in exchange for a set of handcuffs, making Sebesta a guest of the county.”
Prompting the “ewwww” factor in the newsroom was this story about sheriff’s deputies from the Parks Bureau discovering a human skull in the possession of suspected drug dealer Gary Powell when they searched his Ridge Route Road home and found methamphetamine, lots of cash and the bony evidence. Deputies might have gotten a tip from Powell’s nickname: “Grave Digger.”
In the Crimes Against Common Sense Department, the Golden Palace paid $40,668 for a lock of Justin Beiber’s hair that was auctioned on eBay. The high-priced hair was originally a gift to talk show host Ellen Degeneres, who sold the gift and donated the proceeds to The Gentle Barn in Canyon Country, a facility that helps at-risk adolescents and harbors farm animals in a non-threatening environment. Well, OK, it’s a good thing that the money went to help the animals….
Holy Crime Wave, Batman! The guys in the real deputy uniforms caught a bad guy in a fake uniform driving a stolen getaway car away from Magic Mountain. But wait! There’s more! Deputies responding to an alarm ringing in their substation at the park saw a man dressed in a Magic Mountain security uniform attempting to leave the area in a Six Flags maintenance truck. They stopped to ask him about the break-in and found him in possession of Batman and The Flash costumes that had been stolen earlier in the day. No word if the Batsignal was attached to the back of the stolen truck.
If you can’t beat ‘em, take a nap: A drunk driver crashed his vehicle into a Canyon Country mailbox and wall early one morning and decided to make his escape through dreamland. Around 5 a.m., a homeowner near the intersection of Forrest Street and Fitch Avenue came out to find the car with Mark Herran asleep in the back seat, which gave him time to take pictures, wake Herran and go back in the house to call police. Herran drove away, but was caught just a few miles away at Sierra Highway and Soledad Canyon Road.
Telling deputies she only did it for the rent money, a Lake Los Angeles woman was arrested and her two children –ages 11 and 14 - taken into protective custody after a traffic stop and subsequent search revealed that her 14-year old son had six bags of heroin concealed in the groin area of his pants. Mom fessed up to using her son as a drug mule, but said she was a single mother with four children and transporting drugs was a one-time budget move. Evidence to the contrary, including more hidden drugs and evidence that she had been selling for some time, covered her rent in the graybar hotel for the next few nights.
This one is right out of a movie – California Highway Patrol officers spent a lot of time one afternoon scoping out the roadside along a 55-mile stretch of the northbound I-5, but they weren’t picking up trash. They were recovering about $100,000 worth of crystal methamphetamine that had been thrown out of a car window during a pursuit. Ruben Moreno was driving along northbound Lyons Avenue when officers started chasing him and he headed for the freeway. As he sped along the freeway, he rolled down the driver’s side window and started throwing out bags, which landed on the freeway. He was finally stopped in Kern County at the junction of State Route 166 and taken into custody. The freeway in Castaic was closed for 20 minutes so officers could collect the evidence.
And if this one hasn’t been in a movie, it should be: Three young Hispanic men suspected of robbery at Macys gave deputies a run for their money after being caught on surveillance tape taking some high-end sunglasses. The security guard attempted to stop them, but they ran in different directions; deputies surrounded the mall and tried to catch the light-fingered lads. While all this was going on, a strong-arm robbery was reported in Stevenson Ranch, with the suspect described as making his getaway in a black Dodge Charger. Alert officers spotted a black Charger on the freeway and stopped it, only to find the suspects and the stolen merchandise inside. Two identical Charters, two separate and different crimes. The other Charger with the Stevenson Ranch suspect made its getaway successfully.
Another example of why it’s not the smartest move to sleep in your car: Deputies patrolling the back alleys of Sunset Hills in Stevenson Ranch took another drug dealer off the street by arresting Melissa Gonzalez, who they believe had been running a drug sales operation from her vehicle. Deputies found her and a man either passed out or sleeping in the car parked near the hotel and smelled a strong odor of marijuana. Yup. Graybar hotel, room for one.
It’s illegal to do that here, eh! Two Canadians were arrested in Castaic one afternoon when they were stopped by the CHP for having a cracked windshield. Manoj Kalia and Majinder Singh were in a big rig and Singh, who was driving, appeared to be sweating profusely, was very nervous and apparently under the influence of drugs or alcohol. A search of the cab revealed nine kilos of cocaine in a suitcase in the sleeper berth of the cab. The men were arrested and booked, held in lieu of a half-million dollars bail.
Guess she didn’t have Auto Club. Jena Liberty set fire to the hillside near the I-5 freeway and Highway 138 at 4 a.m. to get attention. She had locked her keys in her car and the nearby callbox was out of order. The fire consumed a half-acre, got a lot of attention and Fresno resident Liberty got to spend the night in Santa Clarita thanks to her flammable stunt, which the state calls arson.
Cue the Keystone Kops! A water company worker making a service call near Sierra Highway and Jake’s Way had his company truck stolen who headed down Sierra Highway. With the cops in hot pursuit, the suspect decided to abandon the truck near Dockweiler Drive, but forgot to put it into park. (Wait for it…) The truck rolled over the suspect, giving the cops a chance to catch up with him, even though he jumped up, all Wile E. Coyote-like and ran toward Newhall Avenue. A short distance away, he gave it up in the parking lot of the Meadowridge Apartment complex.
This is NOT what we meant when we said “quality time” – A father and son spent the night in jail for brandishing what looked to be a lethal weapon. Around 6:30 p.m., Kenneth Shields and his son, Jacob, were in a vehicle near Valencia Boulevard and Magic Mountain Parkway, waving around what looked like a Baretta automatic pistol, causing deputies to pull them over and take them into custody. The pistol turned out to be an Airsoft pellet gun, but deputies said that the required red barrel plug had been removed, causing nervous drivers in adjoining lanes to think the gun was real. The elder was charged with displaying an imitation firearm and the younger with bring under the influence. No word on if they had adjoining cells in lockup.
Two men were taken into custody for stealing fencing materials from a Vasquez Canyon homeowner. In the middle of the afternoon, the homeowner witnessed two men taking fencing material from his property and driving away in a red pickup (what is it they say about red cars standing out?). He followed along as they meandered across Vasquez, down to Sierra Highway and over to Bouquet Canyon Road, where they were arrested 15 minutes later. The fencing, which was worth more than $400, earned both of the lucky suspects charges of grand theft.
He’s teaching driver’s ed now: A suspect was still on the loose in Newhall over the holidays after pulling a Dukes of Hazzard-type of stop with a stolen full-size Lincoln sedan. The criminal giant, described as being 5 foot 6 and weighing 150 pounds soaking wet, was making his getaway in the Lyons Station shopping center at Lyons and Apple Street when he ran over a retaining wall in a back alley between Pizza Hut and the Goodyear Tire Store and marooned the car.
In the “Did You Really Think We Wouldn’t Notice?” department, former College of the Canyons trustee Ernie Tichenor was arrested and charged in November with soliciting sex from a 13-year old girl over the internet. Using that ever-popular meet market, Craigslist, Tichenor allegedly sent messages to the young woman, whose mother noticed “inappropriate” notes on her daughter’s email and called police.
If you raise the tent, the clowns will come running: Two out of three suspects wanted for credit card theft hid in plain sight when the deputies went looking for them at the Valencia Town Center. The trio left Best Buy in their black Dodge Charger (wait a minute, I sense a thread to an earlier entry) and abandoned the car near the Sears entrance to the mall, running into the store and splitting off in different directions. Unable to lose themselves in the pre-holiday crowds, the pair decided to run into a tent erected for the circus that had just come to town. The three-ring circus ended up with a two-bracelet finale.
And in the “It Doesn’t Get Any Better Than This” category, (included only because this came from the sheriff’s department), two men decided to take a 10-foot inflatable Pond Prowler boat out on Pyramid Lake on what started out as a beautiful day that turned quite windy as the afternoon progressed. A concessionaire noticed the men’s car had not been retrieved at the end of the day and a search commenced. Parks Department deputies found the men, clinging to a ledge near the spillway, with waves crashing on them near a 200-foot drop. Because of their proximity to cables and overhead wires, deputies could not reach them in the traditional rescue manner, but talked them to a safe spot where rescuers could help them off the water. The men, residents of Agoura Hills, said they had been in the water for a few hours without life jackets and the 70 MPH winds pushed them into the dam. They were treated for hypothermia and the older of the two men, a former opera singer from the Ukraine, was so appreciative of the efforts to save them, he sang "God Bless America" to all of the rescue personnel.
And we have the picture.
Thanks Santa Clarita, for keeping it quirky! Here’s to 2012!