Santa Rosa police have arrested a man they suspect of repeatedly siphoning gas from Santa Rosa School District maintenance vehicles parked in a lot off Ridgway Avenue.
Video of the man's vehicle, a white mid-sized SUV, had been recorded numerous times by a school district surveillance camera. After an image from the video published in Friday's The Press Democrat, police were able to quickly locate the SUV.
Officer Brett Siwy recognized the vehicle from a Nov. 30 encounter with David Ronald Schoof, 42, of Sebastopol. At that time Schoof was on probation for siphoning gas from a vehicle in Rohnert Park, said Sgt. Mike Lazzarini of the property crimes unit.
On Friday, police detectives spotted Schoof's SUV on Burt Street off Santa Rosa Avenue. Schoof was "just hanging out down there," said Lazzarini, adding that detectives searched his car and found a gas can in the car. But they also found methamphetamine, he said.
Lazzarini said Schoof was arrested on suspicion of possessing methamphetamine. Detectives later searched his house in Sebastopol and found additional gas cans and siphoning tools such as pumps and hoses.
However, they did not arrest him on suspicion of misdemeanor gas theft because no one saw who took the gas, he said. His face cannot be positively identified from the video.
"Since no one actually saw him, it's all circumstantial," Lazzarini said. "His excuse was that other people use his car. There's no way to prove that it's him doing the gas siphoning specifically."
Santa Rosa City Schools officials believe the driver of the SUV in surveillance footage is responsible for a spate of gasoline thefts from district vehicles going back at least four months.
"It appears to be the same person every single time," said Jennie Bruneman, director of maintenance and operations for the 16,500-student district.
On Nov. 3, the white SUV appeared on the surveillance video at 11:37 a.m. and made three trips into the parking lot off of Ridgway Avenue before exiting for the last time at 12:19 p.m. The driver appears to be a white man but the license plate is not visible.
On Jan. 21 — Martin Luther King Day and a school district holiday — surveillance footage captured the SUV in the parking lot in broad daylight. Crews returned the next day to find gas tanks drained.
"I'd say it's $600 or $700 worth of gas over the last six months," Bruneman said.
But Lazzarini said the theft remains a petty offense unless someone makes off with more than $950 in one haul.