SANTA BARBARA — Christopher Deal, 21, and his 17-year-old male accomplice have a lot to learn about stealing cars.
Around 7 p.m. May 21, Santa Barbara police responded to the report of a stolen Chevrolet Cavalier discovered parked on city streets just blocks away from where it had been stolen the day before. According to Public Information Officer Paul McCaffrey, routine police work ensued, fingerprints were recorded and the owner arrived to retrieve his vehicle.
Later that night, the owner of the car was at home when he heard unusual sounds coming from outside the residence. He stepped outside to discover Deal and another young man in the process of stealing the vehicle once again as they revved the car’s engine having apparent difficulty actually driving away. Alarmed by the confrontational appearance of the owner, the two thieves bolted from the area and sprinted down the street.
A call to 911 brought police units to the scene. As detailed by McCaffrey, officers established a search perimeter and discovered Deal and his cohort several blocks away. While the suspects were being questioned where they were detained, officers at the scene of the vehicle discovered a cell phone in the console which could not be identified by the car’s owner.
The officer detaining the suspects out of view of the vehicle obtained identification on Deal and his friend, who also gave the officer his phone number. Testing the younger man’s veracity, the officer dialed the proffered number and was surprised to hear the phone answered by the other patrol officer back at the vehicle some distance away. When the suspects were returned to the scene of their crime, they admitted to having stolen the car a day earlier at which time they discovered a “hidden” key which they kept as part of a plan to drive to Bakersfield the next day.
But major problems arose when they parked the stolen car on a city street and it was identified by a friend of the rightful owner and then retrieved by police. According to McCaffrey, since Deal and his partner already had a set of keys, “they decided to re-steal the car” and depart for Bakersfield as planned. Unfortunately, neither thief had any experience driving a manual transmission. Actually getting the car into gear in the midnight darkness became an insurmountable challenge. When the 17-year-old used his cell phone to illuminate the interior of the car, the vehicle’s owner realized that he was being stung once again and sent the young men running.
Deal has been charged with grand theft auto and conspiracy; his juvenile accomplice faces charges of grand theft auto, conspiracy, possession of burglary tools, and possession of marijuana.