Cops: Man in ski mask responsible for break-ins
The witness thought something was amiss.
It was about 10:40 a.m. Thursday near the intersection of Fourth and West Bleeker streets when he saw a Hispanic man wearing all black cover the license plate on his SUV with plastic and put on a black ski mask, according to a search warrant affidavit filed Friday in Aspen District Court. The witness called police.
A few minutes later, another witness reported seeing the tan Nissan Xterra driven by a man in a ski mask in the alley behind O2 Aspen yoga studio, the warrant states. That witness described the driver as a “light-skinned Hispanic male with big, dark eyes” wearing a full-face ski mask and black, ribbed gloves, the warrant states.
Police searched for but couldn’t find the SUV. However, officers did find a red Lexus SUV parked in the area with a broken side window. The vehicle’s owner told police her purse containing an iPhone and other property was stolen.
The modus operandi was familiar to area law enforcement agencies. Pitkin County sheriff’s deputies investigated a similar report earlier that day, while Basalt and Snowmass Village police logged six similar smash-and-grab car burglaries June 16, according to the warrant. The Xterra was caught on video in one of the Basalt incidents, the warrant states.
Basalt police and Pitkin County sheriff’s deputies stopped the Xterra at Basalt Avenue and Highway 82 not long after the Thursday witness sightings and arrested Patrick Estrada, 24, of Aspen, who matched the witness descriptions.
Officers later found the purse belonging to the woman who owns the Lexus SUV in the Xterra as well as a black balaclava, black gloves, a black claw hammer, an ice pick and white and black plastic bags, according to Aspen Assistant Police Chief Bill Linn and the search warrant. In addition, Estrada had a “window punch” on his keychain, the warrant states.
A window punch is a spring-loaded metal device specifically made for breaking glass, Linn said. Officers also found broken tinted glass in Estrada’s pocket after searching him at the Pitkin County Jail, the warrant states.
The break-in Thursday investigated by sheriff’s deputies was reported at about 10 a.m. by a woman who parked her car at the bottom of Smuggler Mountain Road, said Alex Burchetta, director of operations for the Sheriff’s Office. A black leather backpack containing a driver’s license, three credit cards, less than $100 cash and a checkbook were stolen from the vehicle, according to the warrant.
In Basalt on June 16, police received reports of two vehicles with broken windows with property stolen from inside, the warrant states. Basalt police were able to obtain video “that shows a tan-colored Nissan Xterra park next to one of the vehicles and an individual gets out, breaks the window, takes the items and leaves in the Xterra,” according to the warrant.
Finally, four cars parked near the golf course in Snowmass Village were burglarized in a similar manner June 16, said Snowmass Village Police Chief Brian Olson.
“We believe there’s a connection,” Olson said. “We’re hoping a search warrant pulls up even one or two items from our crimes.”
The witness Thursday who saw the man putting on the black ski mask later identified Estrada as the same person, the search warrant states. Also, the second witness later identified the tan Xterra as the car she saw being driven by the man wearing the ski mask, according to the warrant.
“Based on the similar vehicle break-in reports from Pitkin County and Basalt, I believe Estrada is the person responsible for (the two Aspen burglaries and the two Basalt burglaries),” Aspen police Officer Adriano Minniti wrote in the search warrant.
Estrada has been charged with one count of felony trespassing, though Linn said further charges are possible.
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