Deputy Thwarts Escape of Suspects

Crescenta Valley Sheriff’s Deputy Eric Matejka’s local knowledge helped him arrest a pair of suspects with gang affiliations last week on charges of grand theft auto, reasonable cause burglary and possession of burglary tools and brass knuckles.
The school resource officer at La Cañada High School, Matejka was on campus at about 11 a.m. Thursday, Jan. 11, when he heard a call reporting two vehicles seen attempting to commit a theft in the 4800 block of Mesa Vista Drive.
“The call came in off of Descanso [Drive], by Chevy Chase [Drive], so I figured if they were going eastbound on Descanso, they were going to go across Berkshire, so I was going to wait at Berkshire Place — and as soon as I got there, they came around the corner,” Matejka said by phone Wednesday.
Matejka, who has patrolled LCF for 16 years, instituted a traffic stop of the gray 2017 Hyundai (a green Subaru wasn’t located). He said he noticed immediately that the car had no license plate on the front and a paper plate on the back.
He also detected the smell of marijuana, illegal in a moving car unless it’s in a sealed container, said Matejka, who also observed, according to his report, that the driver appeared “agitated.”
Matejka reported that he asked the driver to exit the vehicle, conducted a pat-down, and found a bag of marijuana and brass knuckles. Matejka also reported seeing the car’s license plate, face down, on the floor of the car below the passenger, who had a backpack between his legs.
Within the backpack, Matejka reported finding gloves, bandanas, vice grips, a screwdriver, rolls of duct tape (matching what was used to attach the paper plate to the car), a razor blade and shoelaces. Matejka also said he found a black beanie and a black mask inside of two baseball caps.
“We didn’t catch them doing the burglary,” Matejka said by phone. “But the fact they removed the front plate, that they had gloves, string, duct tape, all this stuff, and the fact that we had information that they’d been seen in a suspicious act, and parked on the wrong side of the street, gave me the opinion that they were either going to commit or had committed a crime.”
While booking the suspects, Matejka said he learned that the car’s owner was calling to report it stolen.
According to the report, the suspects — 35-year-olds from San Gabriel and Pasadena — had connections with the Pasadena Southside gang as well as prior criminal records, including for burglary and evading arrest.
“Oh, I was really excited, I was very excited,” said Matejka of the arrests. “And it happened off a call. We always like when people call in when they see something suspicious.”
— Mirjam Swanson

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