It was late Tuesday night, about 11:30 pm when a Mendocino County Sheriff’s Deputy was on patrol through the Fort Bragg area. The deputy was driving along the Shoreline Highway south of the main town of Fort Bragg, out near the famous Botanical Gardens and the Sea Glass Museum. Just up Boice Lane, behind the Re-Find Home Furnishings store, the deputy noticed a truck parked at the Hopper’s Dairy, but partially hidden, and looked unusual, especially for someone familiar with the area.
According to a Sheriff’s press release, the deputy pulled in to investigate, and got out to look around. In the darkness, apparently trying to get away without being noticed, was a bald man with a mustache and goatee sneaking behind one of the Hopper’s Dairy delivery trucks. The deputy approached and made contact with the man, who was easily recognized as a “frequent customer” for law enforcement, John Patrick Cooley Jr.
Cooley had been in trouble just over a month ago, when he loaded up some fence railings into his truck after stealing them from a property in the small community of Caspar, just south of Fort Bragg. He had loaded up 41 redwood split rails into his black Dodge Durango pickup truck, but was spotted with them while the truck was parked near MacKerricher State Park. He was arrested for possession of stolen property, and for the meth pipe he was carrying. He had a prior arrest for grand theft and possession of a controlled substance in May. He was out on bail pending his appearance at the Mendocino County Superior Court.
When the deputy checked out the scene at Hopper’s Dairy, it was found that two of the trucks had been broken into, and their doors were open. Cooley happened to have one of the broken locks in his pocket, and a large wrench was lying near the trucks as well. The deputy arrested Cooley, and he was booked back into the Mendocino County Jail on two counts of burglary, grand theft, possession of burglary tools, violating his probation, and committing an offense while released on bail. Bail for his latest transgressions was set at $55,000. He remains in custody.
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