LAKEPORT – LAKE COUNTY – Police investigating reports of some gasoline stolen from several vehicles led to the arrest of a teenage man, his father and the woman who lived with them.
Police became aware of several vehicles that had been targeted for fuel theft on February 16 and 17. It appeared the six cars in the Del Lago neighborhood had been tampered with to remove gasoline, and one also had a stereo stolen. Another car on nearby 15th Street, and one closer to downtown on Main Street.
A few witnesses reported seeing a white mini pickup truck with some damage to the rear fender and bumper. One also reported seeing a thin white man, late teens to early twenties, with short hair and a flat billed baseball cap. Some also reported seeing a second man acting as a lookout, but no description was given of him.
Three more reports of stolen fuel came in on Wednesday, February 19, with an estimated 60 gallons missing. Press releases were sent out to the media and published in the local news alerting Lakeport residents to be on the lookout for suspicious activity, especially watching for the truck and young man.
As the investigation progressed, tips came in to police identifying 18-year-old Alexander Gene Gard as a possible suspect. Gard was said to drive a 1997 white Ford Ranger pickup. Despite the matching descriptions, police did not believe they had sufficient evidence for an arrest or search warrant. Meanwhile, the thefts continued. Over the next two and a half weeks numerous other reports of vehicle thefts came in, both of gasoline and property, including from the Lake County Vector Control equipment yard and vehicles, located on Esplanade Street.
On Monday, March 10 at 9:30 in the evening, while Lakeport Police continued to investigate Alex Gard, they found him driving his Ranger in the Shoreline Shopping Center slowly past parked cars. Officers followed him and conducted an enforcement stop as he drove down Main Street. Officers found a treasure trove of evidence in the truck, including stolen auto parts, tools and supplies that came from the Vector Control thefts and items from another vehicle burglary. He also had some concentrated cannabis (which usually means either hashish or “honey oil”.) Gard was arrested and charged with possession of drugs and stolen property, and burglary. The truck was impounded as evidence for further investigation. Nothing, however, could directly connect him to the fuel thefts, however, other than his description.
On Wednesday, armed with a search warrant for Gard’s home and vehicle, Lakeport Police, with the assistance of State Parks officers, arrived at the residence on Armstrong Street bright and early at 7:05 in the morning. It seems that word never reached home that Alex had been arrested, because the officers had no trouble gathering a lot more evidence at the scene. They found Alex’s father, 55-year-old Gary Lee Gard and 50-year-old Alicia Sarris both home at the time. They were detained while the search was conducted.
Officers found evidence of a fully functioning narcotics sales operation, with methamphetamine, narcotic pills, digital scales, marijuana, and drug paraphernalia such as meth pipes and syringes. They even found drug pay and owe notes, and a .22 caliber rifle with ammunition. They also located more stolen property from the vehicle thefts, including a recently stolen car stereo. Gary Gard and Alicia Sarris were both arrested on charges of possession of narcotics and paraphernalia for use or sales, and being armed in commission of a felony, according to Lakeport Police.
The search moved on to the thorough examination of Gard’s impounded truck, based on the warrants obtained. They found a meth pipe, stolen tools and equipment, burglary tools, and finally gasoline siphoning equipment. (No word on what happened to all the stolen gasoline.) Alex Gard was given the additional charges of possession of narcotics and paraphernalia, marijuana for sale, and burglary tools.