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Santa Rosa police arrest prolific auto burglar caught in the act

PIX Now afternoon edition 6-18-2024
PIX Now afternoon edition 6-18-2024 06:13

Police in Santa Rosa arrested a suspected car thief early Tuesday morning who was caught in the act as he broke into multiple vehicles, according to authorities.

Police were dispatched to the 1000 block of Sonoma Ave. Tuesday at around 12:45 a.m. after a report of an auto burglary that was interrupted  by residents. Police said two people living in the area were awoken by a person opening and closing car doors in front of their residence. The residents went outside and saw the suspect, rummaging through the inside of one of their vehicles. 

The residents also noticed a second vehicle belonging to them that also appeared to have been ransacked. They confronted the suspect, who dropped items belonging to them and walked away. The male resident who had interrupted the burglary attempted to follow the individual and witnessed him breaking into another car in the 1300 block of Sonoma Avenue. 

Police officers arrived and detained the suspect -- identified as 33-year-old transient Fernando Penaloza from Santa Rosa -- without incident. Police said Penaloza was also found to be in possession of methamphetamine as well as an item belonging to one of the burglary victims. Penaloza also had cash, two watches, a small handheld fan, sunglasses, headphones, a flashlight, a necklace, and rosary beads. 

Based on their initial investigation, police believed Penaloza stole the above-mentioned items from an undetermined number of unlocked vehicles over the course of several hours before being stopped by police. Police also believe he attempted to steal at least two vehicles during his burglary spree. 

Penaloza, who has been convicted multiple times for burglary from a vehicle, was arrested and booked into Sonoma County Jail on two counts of felony auto burglary, two counts of felony attempted auto theft, and misdemeanor possession of a controlled substance. Santa Rosa residents who think their vehicle might have been burglarized during the incident are asked to contact the SRPD at 707-543-3600, follow the prompts, and refer to case number 24-7354. Individuals will be put in touch with the investigating officer and be advised about how to reclaim any recovered stolen property. 

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