Suspects arrested in major business heist in Woodland Park

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Local business owner plays key role in sting operation

Rick Langenberg

If robbers want to pick a small town for a quick and easy target, don’t select Woodland Park.

That’s the message that officials from the Woodland Park Police Department want to convey, following the swift and successful conclusion of an investigation into a late-night raid against a handful of local businesses, resulting in the arrest of three men, Brandon Wilson, 19, Corey Stevens, 22 and James Hayes, 21 for multiple counts of burglary, criminal mischief and related charges. Officials believe the thieves were responsible for the theft of more than $20,000 in southwestern jewelry, many personal items and business-related damages.

WP Police Detective Glen Jardon, one of the main officers who investigated the case, said he believes the swift arrests will deliver an important message to would-be thieves thinking about targeting businesses in Woodland Park for easy prey. “We are a small police department and have the time to investigate burglaries like this,” said Jardon, who has worked with the agency for several decades. “We are happy we were able to solve this so quickly.”

Besides having to grapple with a tenacious police department, would-be thieves must combat some savvy business owners, who aren’t hesitant about conducting mini-sting operations to retrieve their stolen items.

With the help of Dan Vigil, owner of Chimayo Turquoise, and operators of a Manitou Springs jewelry shop, police from Woodland Park Police and Manitou Springs successfully snagged the thieves only several days after the reported heist.

“I am glad that the stuff was returned and this turned out the way it did,” said Vigil, who complimented the work of the police agencies of Woodland Park and Manitou Springs. Altogether, five officers from the two agencies were involved in the theft investigation and in apprehending the suspects.

Chimayo Turquoise was one of three businesses, broken into between the late evening of April 28 and early morning May 1. The other two businesses included a local pawn shop and 21 storage units from a location off Hwy. 67. Besides incurring considerable theft, the businesses got hit with much damage.

The targeted businesses got a big break when the reported thieves picked a shop in Manitou Springs to try to sell their loot. But unfortunately for the suspected thieves, who are from Colorado Springs, the shop they selected had strong connections with Chimayo Turquoise. “Of all places they could have picked, they picked a shop where my best friend worked,” quipped Vigil.

Acting on tips from Vigil and a Manitou Springs shop owner, who helped set up a mini-sting by arranging a time for a supposed jewelry sale, two of the suspects were caught in Manitou Springs following a foot pursuit by police officials. They were caught after it was determined that the items they wanted to sell were definitely part of the stolen jewelry. Vigil pretended he was an employee of the shop where two suspected thieves wanted to try to sell much of the stolen loot. After authorities were alerted, the men attempted to make a getaway but were apprehended by the police.

The arrests were finalized by the execution of a search of a vehicle and a residence, with the discovery of more of the stolen goods.

Another suspect, Hayes, also of Colorado Springs, was also arrested in connection with the case, several days later.

The case is still under investigation, with police asking anyone who had items stolen from their storage units off Hwy. 67 to contact the agency at 719-687-9262.

Despite the seriousness of the burglaries, Woodland Park Police officials don’t view the latest business robberies as part of a trend.

Both Jardon and WP Police Sergeant Jim Halloran are classifying this as an isolated incident. They said the suspected thieves reportedly spent some time in the Woodland Park and were probably searching for convenient targets. Another business break-in was reported at a local gun shop several weeks ago, but police officials say this incident wasn’t related to the recent burglaries. No items were stolen from the gun shop.

Actually, the Woodland Park Police have reported a decline in criminal activity and overall incidents this year.

Still, with Woodland Park’s proximity to Colorado Springs, business owners are urged to be vigilant in following detailed security measures. To further protect local business owners, the WP Police investigators advise merchants to have a good alarm system and have one that contacts the police directly during break-ins. “That gets us there right away,” said Halloran, who stated that the police haven’t really had a problem with false alarms. Also, Halloran says enough can’t be said about having a quality security video system that showcases their cash register and key areas of the shop. “That would help us immensely,” said the police sergeant.