Police credit residents for helping catch thieves

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By Carol A. Clark

A man walking along a Denver Steel street lifting car door handles caught the attention of a resident who alerted police. That tip led police officers to James (Jimmy) Carpenter who confessed to the bulk of recent vehicle break-ins.

Carpenter admitted to opening the car doors of a number of vehicles and taking the things inside during a spree that spread throughout Los Alamos and into White Rock since at least Feb. 24, according to police reports.

Sgt. Jason Herrera was first to arrive on the scene in response to the resident’s March 1 telephone call.

“I arrived on 37th Street at about 9:30 p.m.,” Herrera said. “The resident reported that the man he saw lifting car door handles was wearing baggy pants and a hooded sweat shirt, had a slender build and was approximately 5’5’’ tall. He also said he observed the man carrying some type of bag.”

In a few minutes Herrera made contact with Jose Ruelas at the corner of Ridgeway and 38th Street. Ruelas was wearing a beanie and a sweatshirt with a hoodie pulled over his head. He matched the description of the suspicious person, according to the report.

He had his hands in his pockets and when Herrera began to conduct a pat-down search of his person, Ruelas immediately told him he had marijuana in his left front pocket, according to the report.

“I retrieved a green leafy substance that was in a plastic bag from his left front pocket along with a marijuana smoking device,” Herrera said. “The substance later tested positive for marijuana on a Narcotics Identification Field Test Kit. We arrested Mr. Ruelas and charged him with possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia.”

Ruelas’ girlfriend, Sarah J. Scammell-Downs, also received a criminal citation for possession of drug paraphernalia.

Ruelas was transported to the Los Alamos Detention Facility.  Herrera and Ofc. Brent Hudspeth interviewed Ruelas. That interview led the officers to Carpenter and his girlfriend, according to the report.

Carpenter’s girlfriend, Leona Allason Bjarke, told police that she and Carpenter commonly “cruised” Los Alamos between the hours of 7 p.m. and 10 p.m. because “there is nothing to do in this town,” according to the report.

When asked about the vehicle burglaries Carpenter initially stated he used to “rob cars,” but didn’t do that anymore, according to the report. He stated in the report that he “smokes weed and shoplifts at Smith’s Grocery Store occasionally.”

During the course of the interview, Carpenter confessed to several of the burglaries and is being charged with a total of 10, which match his behavior, and in which he either admitted committing or at least stealing the missing items.

In one burglary, a bankcard and an estimated $31 in cash were stolen from a vehicle parked on Gold Street and loose change and sunglasses were stolen from another on the same street.

On Urban, a wallet containing some $21 from a parked vehicle went missing, according to the report.

CDs, an iPod and baseball equipment were stolen from a parked vehicle on Rover Boulevard.

A Global Positioning System (GPS) and a radio disappeared from a vehicle parked on Ridgeway.

An iPod and a digital tire gauge were stolen from a vehicle parked on 45th Street.

Carpenter told police he took a purse and checkbook from a car parked on 38th Street and he later told them where they could find the checkbook. Sgt. Jeff Regenold went to the location and retrieved the checkbook, according to the report.

The final vehicle included in this case was parked on Sherwood Boulevard. It sustained door damage but the owner reported she did not find anything missing.

Another resident is credited with helping police in a recent case in which someone stole an airbag and other car parts and equipment estimated at more than $10,000 from a vehicle parked on Trinity Drive.

Details of that case, headed by Sgt. Preston Ballew, continue to develop.

“We commend the residents who reported seeing suspicious behavior,” said Det. Doug Johnson. “Because of them the officers were able to quickly draw a halt to these burglaries.”

Herrera agreed and also praised the seamless collaboration between the LAPD’s investigations and patrol divisions. “We have strong, open communications between the divisions and share information well, which serves our community because it allows us to solve cases more quickly,” Herrera said.  

Police urge drivers to remove all personal items and lock their doors.