Sunday, June 4, 2023

Vehicle Thief Remains Unidentified and At-Large after Stealing Mendocino County Truck and Colliding with a Car in Ukiah

Ukiah Police officers on scene after the suspect’s vehicle was discovered in the parking lot of a business on South Orchard Avenue [All photos provided by Monica Zynda]

On Sunday, April 18, 2021, a hit and run occurred on Ukiah’s Clara Street when a white Toyota Tacoma struck the passenger side of another vehicle. When law enforcement ran the plates, the vehicle was found to be one of Mendocino County’s fleet of cars. Initially unable to find the vehicle, Ukiah Police Department found it damaged and abandoned in the parking lot of a Ukiah business Monday morning.

Heather Rose, a Senior Risk Analyst with the County of Mendocino who handles insurance and safety of the county’s vehicle fleet, emphasized that the driver of the vehicle “was not a county employee.” 

Ukiah Police Department’s Lieutenant Andrew Phillips said the suspect’s identity is unknown other than being a male and remains at large.

Scanner traffic from Sunday morning indicates that at approximately 10:00 a.m. near the 400 block of Clara Avenue, the white Toyota Tacoma struck a vehicle and fled, causing front-passenger side damage to the truck. 

The reporting party told the dispatcher that the driver could have a firearm. When the dispatcher inquired how the reporting party came to believe the suspect could have a gun, they told the dispatcher someone nearby had told them, “Hey, that guy has a gun.”

At approximately 10:10 a.m., the dispatcher told responding officers that another reporting party had stated they witnessed the suspect vehicle driving southbound on Ukiah’s Orchard Avenue.

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Ukiah Police Department’s Lieutenant Andrew Phillips said when officers initially were told the plates of the suspect vehicle were from the County of Mendocino’s vehicle pool, “we suspected the plates had been stolen.”

After officers received reports of the possible firearm, a be on the lookout was issued for the vehicle and an officer safety bulletin, Lieutenant Phillips explained.

Lieutenant Phillips said local law enforcement searched the vehicle until Monday morning at 6:00 a.m. when a janitor at a realty office on the 500 block of South Orchard (the last known location of the suspect vehicle) per scanner traffic) spotted the car in the business’s parking lot. Responding officers found the truck had front-end damage consistent with what was described in Sunday’s hit and run, the county emblems had been removed, and its keys were in the cab. 

Lieutenant Phillips said the vehicle was initially stolen from a Mendocino County employee “somewhere on the coast,” but the theft had, in fact, gone unreported.

Heather Rose, a Senior Risk Analyst with the County of Mendocino who handles insurance and safety, told us the white Toyota Tacoma was stolen from Fort Bragg, the Ukiah Police Department dealt with the hit and run, and the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office took possession of the county vehicle after it was located.

Rose said the unknown thief left trash in the back of the truck, including duffle bags, old recycling containers, and what she described as “cannabis trimming equipment.” At this point, Rose said the county is working on repairing the damage to the truck’s front end.

If you know anything regarding the suspect in this case, call Ukiah Police Department at (707) 463-6242, Fort Bragg Police Department (707) 961-2800, or Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office (707) 463-4411.

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  1. The back of the truck had 2 bags of women’s clothing, 2 meth pipes, a small jewelry box, a vape cartridge, a pocket knife, multiple masks, and a small blue drug baggie with a “T” on it, left by the Police, not taken in as evidence. WTF? Are they really taking this seriously?

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Matt LaFever
Matt LaFeverhttps://mendofever.com/
I like to think of myself as a reporter for the Average Joe. Journalism has become a craft defined largely by city dwellers on America's coasts. It’s time to take it back. I have been an Emerald Triangle resident since 2006 and this is year ten in Mendocino County. Please, email me at matthewplafever@gmail.com if you know a story that needs to be told.

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