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Alert third grader trips up teen burglars

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Alert third grader trips up teen burglars

A trio of suspected house burglars were corralled by officers Grant Flory, right, and John Machado in the 1800 block of Rail Street Friday morning after fielding numerous calls from concerned resi...

GLENN KAHL/The Bulletin


POSTED May 2, 2009 2:01 a.m.
It took a third grader to trip up three teen-age house burglars at about 8:30 a.m. Friday in the southwest section of Manteca.

The youngster was upstairs in her bedroom getting ready for school when she noticed three teens attempting to enter a home in her neighborhood.  She called out to her dad and he called police who already had units in the neighborhood because of suspicious individuals being reported near area homes.

Manteca Police Department spokesman Rex Osborn said that Police Chief David Bricker is preparing a commendation to be presented to the young student for being so alert and for her obvious concern for the safety of her neighborhood.
Patrolman Grant Flory located the three walking on the sidewalk in the 1800 block of Rail Street,   which parallels Wawona Avenue, directly south of the Sierra High School football field.  They had left the home where the third grader had seen them minutes earlier and were walking casually through the neighborhood, he said.

Flory arrested Coty Bruhn, 18, a 17-year-old and a 15-year-old, charging them with burglary and conspiracy.  Bruhn admitted to being a member of a Norteno street gang, wearing a red belt with the “N” gang symbol on his belt buckle.

Two just released from confinement
He was also flashing gang red on his tennis shoes and his shoe laces.  Bruhn said he had just gotten out of jail on Thursday and was free on his own recognizance.   One of the minors had also just been released from juvenile hall in French Camp from previous burglary charges, police said.

Bruhn was also charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor and for committing a felony while out of jail – on a felony charge – on his own recognizance.

Neighbors agreed they were all wearing gloves and baseball caps when they saw them.

Officers said the 15-year-old is also a confirmed gang member and had been part of the group that plagued many homes in the southwestern part of the city in the fall where some $275,000 in valuables were stolen.

Motorcycle officer John Machado and Flory kept the trio in handcuffs, standing  where they had been detained on Rail Street, waiting for witnesses to be driven by them in the back of two patrol cars.    As many as four witnesses, who reportedly had seen them near their homes, were driven by the suspects’ lineup.   

The 17-year-old reportedly had a class ring in one hand that had been taken from one of the houses.  Officers said that after being cuffed he dropped the ring into the grass behind him, however officer Machado  said he saw the ring drop.  It was a 1984 high school class ring that had been taken in the burglary, police said.

Two of the teens had large amounts of coin in their pockets – one had a piggy bank – the coin, officers said,  had been taken from piggy banks in one of the residences the teens allegedly  entered.

Flory said Friday morning’s incident followed the often repeated scenario of past burglaries in the community carried out by teenage gang members.  They would enter a gate into a back yard – once in the back yard they would break out a window or a door to gain access to the residence.  When they got inside the home, they would go to the front door and let their “lookout man” into the house.  

From there they would commit the burglary ransacking the house looking for valuables.  If it looked like they were being discovered, they would run out and jump over fences to escape.  Or, if they hadn’t been discovered, they would run out the front door with their loot, the officer said.

“It’s the same method of operation – and maybe a family-learned business,” he said.  The 15-year-old arrested Friday is a younger brother of the 17-year-old who was heading up the teenage burglary ring in the fall – he’s now 18.

Officer Flory said there was an earlier call to police at 7:30 a.m. at Mary Augusta Street  and Junction Drive that didn’t get reported right away.  There was a miscommunication in calling the police between a mother and a son who live at the residence.

At about 8:30 witnesses called, telling police that three teens were walking from yard to yard ringing door bells and leaving.  While they were responding to those calls, the dad of the third grader called dispatchers to say three teens had gone into a back yard of a home where they  knew the owner had already left for work.  

Police catch trio walking down street
Officers rushed to that address in the 1100 block of Brook View Lane where they found a broken side window, the screen had been removed and the sliding glass door was standing open.  The homeowner told officers he and his daughter had eyes on the house the whole time.  Two people had gone around into the back yard and didn’t come back out, he said.  

The neighbor said the front door had opened to let a person on the porch – who appeared to be a lookout – enter the house.   The “lookout” stepped inside and the door closed, he added.

When the canine officer Randy Chiek reached the house, he and officer Travis Martin cleared the residence using his police dog “Blade. ” Sgt. Jody Estarziau kept watch on the rear of the house and officer Grant Flory stood guard on the front. Officers said they found evidence of ransacking and the drinking of the man’s alcohol.  

Police  reached the home owner by telephone who told them he hadn’t left his home in disarray – saying someone obviously had been in his house.

Officers started checking residences located to the rear of the Brook View Lane address in the 1100 block of Fishback Road.  “In the back yard of that house we found several bottles of beer and a plastic water bottle – a squirt bottle – that the victim later identified as coming from his house,” Flory said.   Officers had also checked out one empty foreclosed home looking for the suspects.

“In the front yard of the house on Fishback Road there was another bottle of beer.  So backtracking that, I discovered the guys walking down the sidewalk like nothing had happened,” officer Flory said.

The patrolman found one more beer bottle that had been opened and left in another yard.  “We had a trail of beer leading to where the suspects were detained,” Flory said.

As the teenagers stood in a “roadside lineup” in front of a two-story home, the 18-year-old continued to banter officers constantly using the “F-word” for detaining them, saying they hadn’t done anything wrong – claiming they were just “innocent bystanders.”  The witnesses officers brought to the lineup on the sidewalk confirmed having seen the trio going through their neighborhoods.

Bruhn was booked into San Joaquin County Jail in French Camp Friday night and the juveniles were taken to juvenile hall – all on burglary and conspiracy charges.  In past burglary cases the minors were often just released to their parents by authorities claiming there was no room at juvenile hall.
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