OK Law Enforcement: Looters In Disaster Areas Will Be Caught And Prosecuted
POTTAWATOMIE COUNTY, Oklahoma - People are really stepping up to help their fellow Oklahomans in the aftermath of the devastating tornadoes, but some thieves are taking advantage of the situation.
We were there as three people were taken into custody in a storm damaged area in Pottawatomie County.
The damage is heartbreaking, the spirit of generosity is uplifting, but knowing thieves could be targeting storm victims is sickening. While there are far more acts of kindness in the aftermath of the tornadoes, there are some thieves taking advantage of the situation.
In Moore, where thousands of homes were damaged and destroyed, police are watching for looters.
"It's very unfortunate. And it really angers the police, so we will put every one of those people in jail," said Sgt. Jeremy Lewis.
Several arrests have already been made in Moore.
"It's kicking somebody when they're down," said Capt. George Brown, with the Oklahoma Highway Patrol.
Brown is one of hundreds of law enforcement officers who has been working in Moore. They're out in force to help victims and to protect what little they have left.
"Some of them, they don't have a house anymore, they don't have a bed to sleep in - the things we take for granted - and it's up to us, as law enforcement officers, to look out for them and we will do that," Brown said.
In Shawnee, hit by an EF-4 tornado, Photojournalist Michael Blair and I saw three people being arrested.
A utility worker called OHP after seeing a pickup full of scrap metal. Investigators say the three suspects told them they had permission to get the metal, but after checking into that, the three were handcuffed, loaded into patrol cars, and later booked into jail.
Two are from California and told investigators they were visiting a relative in Oklahoma.
Kritzia Mejialara, Jeremiah Cook and Amy Cook all face complaints of grand larceny, concealing and transporting stolen property and stolen copper, conspiracy and disturbing a disaster area.
Dozens of local, state and federal law enforcement agencies, plus the National Guard are working in tornado damaged areas.
"Our response time is only seconds," Brown said.
So, if their conscience isn't enough, there are plenty of reasons why thieves should think twice before stealing from storm victims.
"So help me, we'll catch them and we will prosecute them to the fullest extent of the law," Brown said.
Law Enforcement Officers stress it's extremely helpful for anyone that sees something suspicious, especially in a tornado zone, to go ahead and contact them to report it.