Police recover stolen truck

  • Written by Briana Gerdeman, News Writer

"Bad things happen after midnight," Nigel Jones said. Like the night last September that he got a call from a security company in the early hours of the morning.

Two men had broken into Jones’ business, Appian Construction, a paving products company located in the 15000 block of Woodinville-Redmond Road.

"They went into my yard and used bolt cutters to open the lock on the gate," Jones explained. After they got the keys from a lockbox, "they took the nicest truck," Jones said with a chuckle — a truck worth about $40,000 with a small Bobcat loader, worth about $15,000, in the back.

Jones wasn’t the only victim. The burglars also broke into Racecraft, a car maintenance and restoration company across the street from Appian Construction.

"The guys tried to steal one of our trailers, but they couldn’t get the tow hitch off," Jim Froula, the owner of Racecraft, said. However, the burglars broke into four trailers and stole hand tools worth several thousand dollars from Racecraft, as well as martial arts gear from COGA MMA, a mixed martial arts gym located at the same address.

Deputies were out patrolling that night, said Sgt. Cindi West, spokeswoman for the King County Sheriff’s Office, when they saw a suspicious vehicle parked on Woodinville Drive at about 4 a.m. Two men stood next to it in the heavy rain. When police tried to contact the men — later identified as Juan Manuel Hernandez, 40, and Abel Velasco-Esparza, 28, according to charging documents from the King County Prosecutor’s Office — the suspects took off running.

"When a deputy happened upon [Velasco], his response was to flee desperately into a heavy bramble, sustaining multiple injuries, and then refuse to surrender until a police dog bit him," the court documents state. "The best excuse he could muster for what brought him from his home in Tacoma to this Woodinville bramble at 3 a.m. was that his wife had been angry at him for drinking and smoking methamphetamine."

When police detained them and talked to them, "they both had conflicting stories about what they were doing there, who was driving the truck," West said. According to the documents, in contrast to Velasco’s story about falling asleep in the blackberry bushes after a fight with his wife, Hernandez allegedly said they had picked up the truck for a cement work job and were waiting to meet a third person.

Police learned that the truck, which contained stolen items from Racecraft and COGA MMA, belonged to Appian Construction. Hernandez and Velasco were charged with theft of motor vehicle and two counts of second degree burglary, according to the court documents. Velasco was arraigned on Dec. 30, but Hernandez failed to appear for arraignment, said Dan Donohoe, press secretary for the King County Prosecutor’s Office.

This wasn’t the first time Hernandez and Velasco have been in trouble with the law. Hernandez has multiple DUI convictions and a conviction for felony assault. Velasco is charged with "allegedly driving maniacally down the wrong lanes of Highway 164 near Auburn while trying to run another driver — a woman with small children in the car — off the road," the court documents state.

It’s also not the first time Jones and Froula have been victims of theft. Froula has had metal tubes and steel racks stolen from his business, and Jones had another Bobcat stolen.

Jones is grateful that this time, he was able to get back everything that was stolen.

"The good thing about it is, I just jumped in the truck and drove it back to the yard," Jones said. He added, "It’s very fortunate the sheriffs were doing their duty that night. Bad things happen after midnight. You and I go to bed, but these guys are out causing trouble."

West had a similar view: "That’s what you call good police work," she said. "You’re out looking for suspicious people and checking your businesses at night."

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