He’ll never get his beloved Chevy El Camino back, but see how the East Portland CRU helped him recover his engine and parts, in these exclusive photos‚
While Caleb Wood still isn’t going to be driving his El Camino back to Idaho, at least he can take his customized engine and accessories home.
Story and photos by David F. Ashton
34-year-old Caleb Wood says he’s sad, and a little angry, that he won’t be driving his classic, 1972 Chevrolet El Camino back home to Idaho.
Wood says he learned today that cut-up car parts resembling those of his El Camino were loaded on a scrap truck and hauled away a couple of days ago. But, at least, he’ll go home with his engine.
Wood had to partially disassemble the engine to be able to remove it from the garage from which it was being sold.
Stolen off the street
“I came to Portland a few weeks ago to go to car shows, and do a cruise-in or two with my buddy,” Wood recounts. “I was heading home the morning of June 4, but we woke up to find my car was gone. It was stolen off the street.”
Wood says friends encouraged him to peruse Craig’s List and E-Bay looking for parts from his missing car. “Everyone told me, because the car was a classic car, they’d part it out. I started checking.”
Finds June 28 ‘Craig’s List’ ad
Weeks of checking the web-based sales sites turned up nothing‚ until Wood came across this June 28 listing. Wood confirmed the Craig’s List ad that follows is the one that caught his attention:
Reply to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Date: 2007-06-27, 8:29PM PDT
chevy motor 350+ – $800
polished edelbrock intake holly 650 carb polished hooker headers and turbo 400 tranny all one package $800 obo call laura or jason at 503-760-[withheld].
Location: se portand
it’s NOT ok to contact this poster with services or other commercial interests
“My car has a Chevy 350 engine; nothing special, they made thousands of them. It’s all the stuff I added to it makes it special, like the custom intake and headers. I knew this had to be my engine they were selling.”
Doing some detective work, Wood calls the number listed in the ad, and agrees to meet a man who calls himself Jason Rickerd, at the house at 2115 Southeast 112th Ave.; just north of Division St.
“We took a look at the motor. Even though they’d painted part of it, it had all of my custom parts on it. It was mine. I just kept cool; we didn’t confront them. I told Rickerd it would probably fit in a car I had, and I’d be back.”
East Precinct CRU Sgt. John Scruggs shows us some of the guns they found in the home where Wood’s engine was offered for sale.
Brings out cops, not cash
Instead of heading to the bank to get some cash, Wood makes a bee-line for Portland Police Bureau East Precinct about 1:00 p.m.
“When Sgt. Anderson called to tell me that Wood positively identified his engine,” Lt. Chris Uehara, acting Commander of East Precinct tells us, “I had Sgt. John Scruggs and his Crime Reduction Unit (CRU) come to the house and recover this engine.”
Says this is community policing at its best
“Fantastic,” Uehara says as a smile broadens across his face. When not acting commander, he’s the lieutenant in charge of CRU.
“This is exactly what we want: citizens calling in and reporting crime,” says Uehara. “Citizens are our eyes and ears in the community. They did it right. They didn’t act as vigilantes; they didn’t take matters into their own hands‚ they did it the right way and called us in.”
Wood comments, “You know, I am from Idaho; we tend to take care of things ourselves. I thought about taking [my engine] back, but saw a lot of other parts at the house and decided to call the police.”
While they’re disappointed they didn’t find Wood’s car intact, CRU team leader, and acting precinct commander, Lt. Chris Uehara says he’s happy these suspected criminals are off the street.
Finds drugs and guns
Uehara reports CRU officers found small, user-amounts of narcotics. “We found some meth paraphernalia in the house. Methamphetamine, auto theft, and burglaries, these activities all go hand-in-hand.”
After searching the house, CRU Sergeant John Scruggs shows us weapons they say came from inside the house where the stolen engine was offered for sale. “I believe there are more guns in the house; we’re still looking.”
Scruggs says they ran the plates on the cars and motorcycles located on the property. “It doesn’t look like they’re stolen. We’ll continue to investigate what’s in the house; we suspect there is more stolen property there; but we have no other complainants.”
Just after 5:00 p.m., officers arrest 29-year-old Jason Rickerd on one count of “Theft By Receiving in the First Degree” for allegedly (and unknowingly) trying to sell Wood’s engine back to him. He also is charged with one count of “Felon in Possession of a Firearm”.
50-year-old Clifford Rickerd, Jason’s father, was also arrested for Probation Violation. Ironically, Clifford Rickerd is on probation for “Theft By Receiving in the First Degree” in connection with another stolen vehicle.
Welcome to the worldwide ‘fencing operation’
We ask Scruggs if he and the CRU unit are finding more stolen goods showing up on Internet sites like Craig’s List and E-Bay.
“We haven’t detected a marked increase of stolen goods showing up on websites,” reports Scruggs. “We do see these sites used as a medium for selling stolen goods.”
The websites have cut into profits for “fences”, or middlemen, who buy and sell stolen property, the sergeant tells us. “Instead of having a fence give the criminal a dime on a dollar’s worth of property, the criminals now can ‘cut out the middleman’ and get the full fifty cents on the dollar.”
As evening falls, one of those accused stands in the rain, waiting to go to jail.
Not driving back to Idaho
While we talk with officers, Wood and his friend struggle with a rickety homemade engine hoist and carefully lift his engine into the back of his friend’s truck.
Wood’s friend picks up chromed exhaust pipes from the El Camino, and show us how they bottoms were caved in and scraped. “They had to fly the car to do this. It had fly up in the air, and hit so hard that it bottomed out and scraped the pipes,” Wood says.
Wood and officers talk to neighbors along SE 112th Avenue, trying to get additional information. One person says he saw the cut-up pieces of a vehicle, matching Wood’s Chevy, being taken away in a scrap metal truck.
“I guess that means I’m not taking my car back home,” Wood says. “But at least, I got my engine‚ and some of the people involved with this crime.”
¬© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service