Encino: An early morning traffic stop led two heads-up LAPD patrol officers to four suspects for burglarizing a Verizon Wireless store, located at 19600 Ventura Boulevard.
“This is a real break in the burglary problem in this area,” explained Officer Amy Vest, one of the arresting officers from the West Valley Police Station. “We’ve had a spate of residential and commercial burglaries over the last several months, but it’s been challenging to make arrests.”
Vest and her partner first saw a red Kia run a red light on Ventura Boulevard, not far from the Verizon store, but the officers still had no knowledge of any burglary. The officers lost sight of the Kia, then thought they noticed the same car 30 minutes later, about 5 AM, driving with its lights off.
The driver still tried to evade the officers, but they were able to pull it over. “The strong smell of marijuana got the officers curious, but it was a burglar alarm broadcast for the Verizon store that made the officers think the car’s occupants might be more than teenaged partiers,” Vest explained.
A search of the car turned up burglary tools, then other officers viewed the video from the Verizon store and noted three men inside the store putting items into bags. The suspects resembled the three men in the Kia, in stature and dress.
Other officers then found a discarded bag containing stolen Bluetooth speakers lying on the sidewalk near the point the Kia initially sped away from the officers. “It looks like the suspects got scared when they first saw us, and tossed their loot,” added Officer Zoraya Guillermo, who is Vest’s partner. “Serial numbers will tie the stolen items to the store, and the video puts the men inside.”
Officers Vest and Guillermo arrested Thomas Rollings II, 20 and Dwaun Jennings, 18, both of Compton, Alexis Stewart, 19, of South Los Angeles, and a 17-year-old juvenile male from Inglewood. The Kia, belonging to Stewart’s grandfather, was impounded. Jennings is on probation, and he and Rollings have criminal histories. The minor was cited to court and returned to his mother. Bail for the three adults was set at $20,000 each.
“Now the real work starts with tying other burglaries to this crew,” Vest added . “Clearly, a lot of thought and effort went into this crew’s burglary plan. This crew is only one of several unconnected rings that have zeroed in on the west San Fernando Valley as an easy target, but I hope that these arrests will disabuse any other crews of that.”
Anyone with information on this crime is urged to call Detective Paul Ervin, West Valley Burglary Unit, at (818) 374-7772. Anonymous tips can be called into Crimestoppers at 800-222-TIPS (8477), or by texting 274637 (C-R-I-M-E-S on most keypads) with a cell phone. All text messages should begin with the letters “LAPD.” Online tips may be placed at www.LAPDOnline.org, click on “webtips” and follow the prompts.