One Car Theft Becomes Two Car Crashes on Point Dume Saturday

Two sheriff’s deputies search the contents of a car as part of a burglary investigation on Saturday afternoon.

One crook was caught and one’s still on the lam following a car burglary on Point Dume Saturday, and officials said the details of the incident make it one of the more “convoluted” burglary cases they’ve dealt with in recent memory.

So far as investigators could tell, two men set off in a car, with a plan to “pull door handles” around the area of Fernhill and Boniface in Point Dume and commit petty thefts or burglaries. One of them managed to steal a vehicle and both ended up fleeing the scene, each crashing. In the end, one of the two got away. The one who was stopped by law enforcement thought he might be able to talk his way out of it—but he had no such luck.

Sheriff’s officials described coming upon a crime scene on Saturday afternoon that looked like a normal crash, just off PCH in the Point Dume area.

“I was on the first initial call, which at the time was just [described as] a traffic collision at PCH and Zumirez, right in that open field area east of Zumirez,” Deputy Mitch Bowen of the Malibu/Lost Hills Sheriff’s Station described in a phone call with The Malibu Times. At first, the officer said, the driver of the black Toyota Celica that had crashed—described by Bowen as a male Hispanic with no shirt on—tried to wave officers away, assuring them he already had a tow truck on the way.

“Right away, he told me he got a tow,” Bowen said. “I didn’t sense anything [amiss].”

Bowen, though, said he was tired of seeing the same types of accidents on PCH, seemingly due to reckless or dangerous driving. 

“First thing that went through my mind was, ‘I’m sick of taking all these collisions out here, people driving unsafely,’ so I ask for his license,” Bowen described. “But he’s being weird around his car.”

At first, everything seemed to check out. The vehicle was registered to the driver and all the paperwork was there. 

While Bowen was considering whether to cite the driver, who was growing more agitated, his radio began relaying calls for additional units, following reports of two males “pulling on door handles” in the area. Then, he heard a helicopter overhead—canvassing the area for suspects. Next, a call came out with a description of the suspect’s vehicle—one that matched the Celica sitting in the ditch in front of Bowen.

“I hear them on the radio say something about a small black car, and I said, ‘I’ve got a small black car here,’” Bowen recalled. As more law enforcement units arrived, some residents appeared on scene and began pointing out the man, who was still speaking to Bowen. 

The driver became a suspect, and more clues were located inside the vehicle. It turned out there was a wallet in the Celica that did not belong to the driver—but he recited the name on the ID inside without hesitation.

“There was a wallet in this guy’s car—that we were dealing with—and I said, ‘Whose wallet is this?’ and he said the name, but that it’s not him,” Bowen described. 

Also in the vehicle were Land Rover tote bags—“kind of like a gift bag you got when you buy a new Land Rover,” Bowen said.

That’s when officers on scene connected it to another crash that had occurred just up the road. What appeared to be a brand new Land Rover Discovery had crashed while coming around the turn where Zumirez Drive turns into Wildlife Road, near Fire Station 71. 

“That guy took off running—we never caught him,” Bowen said of the driver of the Land Rover.

News of the burglary was shared on neighborhood social media over the weekend, with reports that at least one area resident had noticed the thefts taking place and tried to “chase down” the suspects. Bowen said that that “there were people who saw what took place,” including “two ladies [who] came over to Zumirez where we were, and another guy riding his bike,” who helped to put together details of what exactly had happened.

The case is still under investigation, according to Lt. Jim Royal with the Malibu/Lost Hills Sheriff’s Station. Charges against the suspect would be determined by the district attorney.

The lead investigator in the case is Detective Wheatcroft, who can be reached at the station: 818.878.1808.