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Santa Rosa burglary of $13,000 in power tools could be part of criminal ring

A burglary of thousands of dollars in power tools from a tractor dealership Thursday outside Santa Rosa may be connected to a spree of similar thefts across Northern California, according to the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office.

A sheriff’s spokesman said five men smashed the front door at Belkorp Ag on the 4100 block of South Moorland Avenue at 5:20 a.m., stealing nearly four dozen chainsaws, weed trimmers, gas-powered blowers and other power tools valued at $13,000.

The suspects then led officers from three agencies on a high-speed chase in a van reported stolen from Atascadero in San Luis Obispo County, according to the Sheriff’s Office. Three men were arrested when the pursuit ended in Sebastopol. Two men are believed to have escaped on Thursday, possible in a separate vehicle, said Sheriff’s Office spokesman Sgt. Spencer Crum.

The burglary is likely related to an August theft in Santa Rosa in which $15,000 in power tools were stolen from Rincon Valley Yard and Garden, Crum said. No arrests were made at the time.

Similar burglaries in Napa and Marin counties are being investigated as part of a criminal ring, he said.

The arrests included Wayne Lindsey, 23, of Firebaugh on suspicion of burglary, conspiracy, possession of a stolen vehicle and evading a peace officer; Larry Echols, 34, of Fresno on suspicion of burglary, conspiracy and possession of a stolen vehicle; and Jeremy Escover, 36, of Fresno on suspicion of burglary and conspiracy.

The incident began when Belkorp Ag’s silent alarm was triggered, according to the Sheriff’s Office.

Store manager Chris Hale called the Sheriff’s Office while watching the men ransack the store on his cellphone, which is connected to the store’s security camera system.

Hale estimated damage to the store at $5,000. He said he saw “five or six” men inside the store.

“It’s kinda crazy when you’re watching your store get robbed,” he said.

A Rohnert Park Public Safety officer spotted the van on Stony Point Road and pursued, joined by a Cotati police officer.

Officers pulled the van over on Highway 116 just west of Stony Point Road. When the driver, Echols, opened the door, he was apparently pushed out by a passenger, according to the Sheriff’s Office.

The van sped off, and deputies laid down a spike strip at Bloomfield Road. Despite a flat left front tire, the suspects continued onto Lynch Road and then Beattie Lane, likely unaware it was a dead end.

Lindsey surrendered without incident. Escover attempted to flee, but fell as he jumped out the back door and was arrested.

All three men were booked in the Sonoma County Jail. Each is being held on $300,000 bail.

You can reach Staff Writer Nick Rahaim at 707-521-5203 or nick.rahaim@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @nrahaim.

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