By Jon Johnson
SAFFORD – A 17-year-old juvenile was apprehended Friday, Nov. 2, after multiple surveillance systems showed he was the likely suspect in a truck theft.
The suspect was released by Graham County Juvenile Probation and they advised he would be allowed to be free from incarceration pending being charged by an adult by the Graham County Attorney’s Office in the next couple of weeks. Since the suspect has yet to be charged as an adult, the Gila Herald is withholding his name.
Police were initially dispatched at about 10:41 a.m. on Oct. 30 to a residence on 9th Street regarding a stolen white, 2008 Chevrolet half-ton extended cab 4X4 pickup truck. The owner said he had left for work early that morning but that his brother had driven by around 7 a.m. and the truck was still there. When he returned a little after 10 a.m., the truck was nowhere to be found.
The victim’s neighbor informed him that his Ring doorbell camera had caught a male walking by the victim’s house several times and then enter the yard. The male was positively identified by the police officer.
The next day, at about 5:36 p.m., the truck was located parked at the Safford City-Graham County Library.
Surveillance footage from the library showed the same juvenile in the Ring footage park the truck and walk away with the keys. The juvenile was wearing the same clothes he was wearing in the Ring footage, according to a police report. A time stamp from the library footage showed the juvenile parked it at about 10:30 a.m. the previous day.
On Friday, police responded to the area of 10th Street and 12th Avenue regarding juveniles acting suspiciously. Upon arrival, an officer saw the juvenile from the surveillance videos walking with two other juveniles and took him into custody.
After informing the juvenile’s mother, the suspect was taken to the Safford Police Department for questioning. After being confronted with the video evidence, the juvenile allegedly admitted to taking the truck but said the victim had given him permission to do so and that he worked for him.
The officer then asked the suspect if he thought it plausible that the victim would allow a person he barely knows who doesn’t even have a driver’s license to use his truck and the juvenile said yes.
The officer asked if the juvenile had permission to use the truck – which the victim vehemently denies – then why would he park it at the library instead of returning it and the juvenile said because it was low on gas.
After repeatedly telling officers that he didn’t know where the keys were, the juvenile’s grandmother spoke with him alone and informed her that he had thrown them in the weeds by a canal between 5th Avenue and 6th Avenue. The juvenile led the officer to the location, and the keys were soon located in the weeds and recovered.
The juvenile was then released into the custody of his mother until charged by prosecutors.
The keys were returned to the victim, who advised the suspect never had permission to take his truck.