An off-duty Clay County Sheriff's Department officer happened to be in the right place at the right time Sunday morning.
Around 6 a.m., a Staunton resident saw someone breaking into their vehicle parked on Franklin Street in Staunton, and called 911. Deputy Brian Pierce was sent to investigate the case. Before he could arrive, the suspect was captured by Detective Sgt. Rob Gambill, who is presently on vacation.
Shortly before 6 a.m., Gambill was going to pick up his son from the Relay For Life event at the Y.M.C.A. On his way he saw a male juvenile walking down the street acting odd.
When he returned home a short time later, the same juvenile ran through a yard and across the road in front of Gambill's minivan.
Since he didn't have his cell phone with him to call the department, Gambill stopped to question a woman on the sidewalk wearing pajamas and standing in the rain with no shoes on. The woman told Gambill she had just called 911 to report someone breaking into her husband's truck. She provided a description similar to the suspect Gambill saw moments earlier. She told him that she would have caught the juvenile if she had had shoes on.
"We don't want to discourage people from protecting their property, but we do urge they use caution," Gambill said. "Immediately call 911 in this type of situation, because you just don't know who you will encounter."
Gambill drove around the block and found the juvenile walking east bound on Columbus Street.
"He was carrying an armload of miscellaneous items, and when I got close (to him) there was a strong smell of alcohol," he said. "I don't think he believed that I was a police officer at first."
The 17-year-old juvenile from Brazil was taken into custody without incident. A search recovered three pairs of sunglasses, 12 work gloves, a 35 mm camera, two pairs of women's shoes in an Old Navy bag and many other small items.
A victim, who was looking for the juvenile, saw Gambill and phoned 911 to report the suspect was caught.
Deputy Pierce took over the investigation when he arrived.
At least seven other vehicle break-ins were reported to 911 dispatchers by Staunton residents. Most were missing items, but a few vehicles had been gone through with nothing reported missing. Four of the vehicle owners were able to identify personal items found in the possession of the juvenile.
A timeline narrowed the break-ins to 4-6 a.m. Sunday.
Officials said that not all of the items reported missing from the vehicles, such as stereo equipment and DVD equipment, have been located.
Anyone with information regarding this case, or any others, please call Deputy Brian Pierce at the Clay County Sheriff's Department at 446-2535.