Crime spree strikes Rifle |

Crime spree strikes Rifle

Ryan Hoffman
Law enforcement found a city-owned work truck over the edge of a small cliff out near Fravert Road Tuesday after the vehicle was stolen from Centennial Park.
Provide by Rifle Police Department |

An anomaly is an accurate characterization of the past week for the Rifle Police Department, said Chief John Dyer.

What started with a wave of vehicle break-ins over the weekend, including nine reported incidents on Will Avenue in west Rifle Sunday night going into Monday morning, continued Tuesday morning with two burglaries in the 300 block of West Fourth Street. The reportedly stolen property in the two burglaries included 14 firearms, coins, personal identification, prescription drugs, several laptop computers and other property.

Later that same morning a city of Rifle work truck was stolen from Centennial Park where a Rifle Parks and Recreation Department employee left the keys in the vehicle while he worked.

Less than an hour after responding to the vehicle theft, police arrested James Pattangall, 29, around 11:30 a.m. Tuesday on Fravert Road and charged him with aggravated vehicular theft after discovering he was in possession of some items from the Rifle-owned work truck, which was later discovered over the side of a small cliff west of Fravert Road.

The truck was eventually recovered and towed out.

The firearms and other stolen property were still missing Wednesday morning, but police were looking into a potential tip on the location of the stolen firearms and hoped to recover them by the end of the day, Dyer said.

As of press time, Pattangall was charged with the alleged vehicle theft. He is being investigated as a potential suspect in the two burglaries, Dyer said.

Acting on a potential lead, officers arrested a second man Tuesday evening, eventually apprehending him in the parking lot of the Rodeway Inn after a foot pursuit in south Rifle.

The man, who was not identified by law enforcement Wednesday morning, was arrested on a warrant. He is being looked at as a potential suspect in Tuesday’s criminal activities, but as of Wednesday morning law enforcement did not have enough information to file charges.

Neither Pattangall nor the second man arrested Tuesday evening are believed to be involved in the spree of vehicle break-ins on Will Avenue in west Rifle earlier in the week.

That belief is based on video footage from a private residence surveillance system showing a male attempting to enter two different vehicles. The man walks away after discovering both vehicles are locked.

While the quality is not as good, additional footage from other private home surveillance systems shows the man walking alone, according to Dyer.

Personal property, including four firearms, was taken from the vehicles, which in all but one instance were unlocked, according to Dyer.

“They’re crimes of opportunity,” the chief said expressing some frustration. A series of vehicle break-ins in the spring were attributed to unlocked cars, and at least three handguns were reported missing after a series of vehicle break-ins in Parachute in early August.

“It’s three things,” Dyer said. “Lock your car, don’t keep your keys in your car, and don’t leave valuable things in plain view.”

As for Pattangall, police are examining several incidents in the last month to see if there is any connection. Those crimes include the theft of video equipment used to record Rifle football games that was stolen from a pickup truck parked outside the New Ute Events Center last Friday and an attempted burglary last week that was thwarted when the suspects realized one of the residents was inside the home located in the 1700 block of Anvil View Avenue.

It’s been an exhausting stretch for the entire department, Dyer said. Fortunately, he added, the Rifle officers have helped one another, coming in on days off to help out during the surge in criminal activity. The Garfield County Sheriff’s Office has also helped a great deal, Dyer said.

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