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Three Charged With Stealing Tools From Vehicles Parked At Home Improvement Stores

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Police in northwest Indiana have broken up a theft ring that operated in the parking lots of home improvement stores.

The thefts began in April. On at least three occasions, men dressed in yellow safety vests to blend in with legitimate construction workers, watched as they went inside, and then broke into unattended vehicles to steal the workers' tools.

Schererville Police Cmdr. Brian Neyhart said one victim caught the thieves red-handed, and confronted them on April 15. He spotted the suspects taking tools from his vehicle, and putting them in the trunk of a black sedan.

"The passenger had gotten in, and was holding one of [the victim's] tools. It was a drill that [the victim] believed was his. He tried to reach inside the window, and grabbed it. The guy who was sitting there, he yelled 'Give me a pistol,' so he pulled his hand back out of the car, and they drove away," Neyhart said.


In that theft, the suspects got away with more than $1,800 worth of tools. On April 24, Schererville police also received reports of two similar thefts -- a $3,000 theft from thee same Home Depot parking lot, and a $1,000 theft at a Menards. On May 11, the thieves took $700 worth of tools from a truck at Menards.

On May 15, three men were arrested after Neyhart and another officer staked out a Lowe's store in unmarked vehicles, and spotted 45-year-old Darren Butler, 57-yearold Fred Leland, and 41-year-old David Tate in a vehicle matching the suspect vehicle's description. The officers saw power tools in the trunk when the suspects opened it, and as a police officer drove past the car, the suspects closed the trunk.

Police conducted a traffic stop after the sedan pulled out of the Lowe's parking lot, searched the vehicle, and found several stolen tools.

Neyhart said all three men confessed to the thefts. Each man faces three felony charges and one misdemeanor charge.

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