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Wash. man arrested for stealing $20K of camera gear from FD PIO’s vehicle

The Tacoma Fire Department’s new PIO said her personal vehicle has been broken into in every city she has lived in


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By Julia Park
The News Tribune

TACOMA, Wash. — Tacoma Fire Department public information officer Chelsea Shepherd was just a few weeks into her new job when her car was broken into.

Shepherd said she was working late Monday and found her car had been prowled when she came out to the city-assigned vehicle, which was parked in the Tacoma Fire Department Station 1 designated parking area in the 900 block of Court D Street.

A 22-year-old man was charged Wednesday with first-degree theft and second-degree vehicle prowling in connection with the incident.

According to charging documents, he allegedly broke into the vehicle and stole multiple bags from the trunk. The bags, one of which was Shepherd’s personal bag, contained camera equipment belonging to the City of Tacoma, which Shepherd estimated at a value of about $20,000.

“You just feel so violated when you walk up to that vehicle and see that glass on the ground,” Shepherd said.

Tacoma Police Department public information officer Shelbie Boyd confirmed that detectives recovered all of the camera equipment except for one tripod as of Thursday. Boyd said it is rare for that much equipment to be stolen and recovered within 24 hours using the serial numbers provided by the victim for the stolen items and video surveillance footage.

Pierce County prosecutors wrote that a nearby camera captured still photographs of the defendant looking into the vehicle and walking away with the stolen items and that the officer who arrested the defendant Tuesday identified the defendant in the photos based on an interaction earlier that day.

At the time of the arrest, the officer found a small handheld glass-breaking device near the defendant that he had observed in the defendant’s possession in that earlier interaction, documents show.

Prosecutors wrote the defendant was searched for other evidence, but none was found. The defendant allegedly invoked his right to remain silent at first but later told the officer while in the officer’s patrol vehicle, “I can tell you where the stuff is,” without being asked any questions. The officer re-read the defendant his Miranda Rights two more times. The third time, the defendant allegedly told the officer that he understood his rights and wanted to speak to the officer.

The officer then asked the defendant what he believed the officers were looking for, documents show. The defendant allegedly said it was a Pelican camera. When the officer asked where the camera was, the defendant allegedly said “he put it in a storage at the Beacon,” which prosecutors wrote referred to a young adult center at 415 S. 13th St.

Charging papers show the defendant allegedly told the officer that he was the one who broke into the car and stole the equipment, saying, “Yeah, I was high off drugs.”

Shepherd said only a few weeks have passed since she started working as the fire department’s new public information officer. She previously lived in Los Angeles and in Seattle and said her personal vehicle has been broken into in every city she’s lived in. She said she was glad that the security footage worked well and credited it with helping police recover the stolen equipment.

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