Police arrest suspect in Rifle vehicle theft
A suspect is in custody following the theft of a Rifle work truck from Centennial Park, which was preceded by two nearby burglaries Tuesday morning.
James Pattangall, 29, was charged with aggravated vehicular theft in connection with the stolen truck. No charges have been filed in relation to the two burglaries, but he is being investigated as a potential suspect, said Rifle Police Chief John Dyer, who added the investigation is still in the early stages.
The truck was located off of Fravert Road Tuesday afternoon. The stolen property from the burglaries — including 14 firearms — has not been found, Dyer said.
Dispatch received a call around 10:42 a.m. that a city of Rifle Parks and Recreation Department employee at Centennial Park wanted to speak with a police officer. After arriving on scene, law enforcement learned that a city-owned truck had been stolen. The employee told officers that he had left the keys in the truck while he was working.
That call came in shortly after two home burglaries were reported in the 300 block of West Fourth Street. In the first instance, the owner returned home to find his residence completely ransacked. The reportedly stolen property included 14 rifles, coins, personal identification, prescription drugs, several laptop computers and other property.
The resident called his neighbor, who also returned home and realized that money and other property was missing.
Based on the parks and recreation employee’s account, police believe the burglar used a trash can meant for curbside garbage removal to transport the stolen property.
Soon after, a detective located Pattangall walking on foot on Fravert Road heading toward Highway 13. He was in possession of several items that had been in the city-owned truck and was arrested around 11:30 a.m.
Both Rifle High School and Rifle Middle School were put on lockout as a precautionary measure about 10 minutes after Pattangall’s arrest. Students were brought inside at both schools where the day continued as normal, except nobody could exit or enter either building during that time, said Theresa Hamilton, Re-2’s director of Districtwide Services. Wamsley Elementary also went into lockout for a very brief period of time. By 12:30 p.m. the lockout was lifted at all Re-2 schools.
With help from the Garfield County Sheriff’s Office, law enforcement discovered the truck over the edge of a small cliff west of Fravert Road Wednesday afternoon, Dyer said. The truck was still running when it was discovered.
Pattangall is being investigated as a suspect in the two burglaries, and police are also examining several other incidents in the past month, including a burglary attempt last week, to see if there is any connection.
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Interstate 70 through Glenwood Canyon may be closed intermittently Wednesday through the weekend, as highway crews break down and remove boulders and patch potholes caused by Tuesday’s rock slide.