High-tech surveillance, attentive citizens and stupidity lead to arrests in burglary
By Robin Scott
In the late hours of Wednesday, July 30th, the Dalhart Police Department responded to a burglar alarm sounding in the 500 block of West 7th Street. At the same time, the owners of B&B Liquor Store, Harold and Carla Meyers, received telephone calls on their cell phones notifying them that the alarm was going off at the store. When the Meyers arrived at the store, just six blocks from their home, they discovered three police squad cars and four officers were already on the scene of what appeared to be an attempted break in.
Upon first glance, the front door to the business appeared in tact, even though the glass was shattered. Carla Meyers noted, “The police didn’t know if anyone was still inside, or if they had even made it inside. The way the door looked, it didn’t appear like anyone had gotten inside. The officers all had their guns drawn. We opened the door for them, they went in, and we turned off the alarm.”
Once inside, officers cleared the building. The Meyers were able to positively ascertain that burglars had been inside the building and that property was taken. Officer Eloy Duran stayed with the Meyers at the store while Officers Adam Henley, Patrick Yarbrough and Steven Hayslip left in search of the perpetrators. Harold Meyers commented, “Henley and I took off walking in the back alley and found the bottle of Corona that Elam had been carrying.”
Officer Duran and the Meyers immediately accessed the video surveillance system and discovered that two white males had indeed broken in and crawled underneath the shattered glass of the front door. The shattered glass remained in one large piece and had rested back in place after the suspects fled the scene. Officer Duran called out a description of the two males, who had used their t-shirts to attempt to shield their faces and their identities from the cameras.
Det. Paul Rowell with the police department was called out to the scene. Evidence was collected and inventoried and statements taken from witnesses. According to a spokesperson for the police department, “Video surveillance installed by the business owners captured images of two suspects breaking into the business and leaving with property. It also provided police with clothing descriptions of the suspects.” Det. Rowell stated, “The officers did exactly as they were supposed to. They did an outstanding job and should be commended for their efforts.”
Officers Henley, Yarbrough and Hayslip didn’t have to go far. A tip from a citizen led the officers in the right direction in search of the two suspects. The witness stated, “It was after 11:00 p.m. I heard a commotion outside. Two guys talking or yelling. I looked outside and saw two guys running down the street. Then I noticed cop cars at the store. The alarm was sounding so I told Officer Henley which way the two guys ran, just in case they had something to do with it.” Moments later, they both were apprehended.
Cody Wyatt Elam, age 20, and Jeremy Lee Black, also age 20 were located and arrested for burglary of a building. They were transferred to the Dallam/Hartley County Jail and booked. Elam still had his t-shirt off when he was booked. Early Thursday morning Elam and Black were arraigned and bonds were set at $4,000 each. Both men have been charged with burglary of a building, and Black had open city of Dalhart warrants. Both Elam and Black bonded out just after their arraignment.
Harold Meyers went early Thursday morning to speak with Chief of Police, Tom Sanford. He stated that he told Chief Sanford, “Officer Eloy Duran came inside the store with us and we looked at the video. Duran called on the radio with their descriptions, and what they were wearing, one had striped shorts. Literally within five minutes they were both caught. It was just outstanding. It couldn’t have worked out better.”
The surveillance equipment depicted both men clearly. They covered their faces with their shirts; however, they failed to shield their identities completely. Elam had two very distinctive tattoos on both shoulders that were clearly visible in the surveillance video and the clothing worn by Black was also distinctive. When the suspects left the building back out through the shattered glass front door, they received cuts. A 73rd Annual XIT Rodeo and Reunion poster, hanging on the inside of the front door that Elam and Black crawled through, collected evidence that is expected to further identify both men.
Harold Meyers also stated, “The type of security system that we have takes a very clear video of both the inside and outside of the property. They were seen in the back drive-through on video about 20 minutes before they kicked in the front door, which was also all caught on video. I don’t know what they were doing during that 20 minutes, maybe trying to get up the courage to kick in the front door. We can print color photographs from the system as well as burn a CD. We did that and provided it all to the police.”
The men were discovered near Martha’s Restaurant on Highway 87. Meyers stated, “You can see Elam holding a liquor bottle in one of the video scenes, and it was recovered.” The police department noted, “Thanks to the help of three witnesses who saw two suspicious men leaving the area of the business and the store surveillance video that helped identify the suspects, we were able to make a quick arrest.” Police did recover stolen property taken from the store, which consisted of three packs of Marlboro Smooth cigarettes and an 18-pack of Bud Light beer, according to Meyers. Carla Meyers stated, “It’s hard to believe they’d break in just for that, and it looked like taking the beer was a last minute thought on the video.”
Harold Meyers stated, “Just as the two of them are going in through the front door, you can see on the video that a car drives right past the front of the business.” He also stated, “From the time they kicked in the front door until the time they left was only 21 seconds. All that for an 18-pack Bud Light and three packs of cigarettes. I really believe they were caught because of three things: a very good alarm system, great police officers and stupid criminals.”
The charge of burglary of a building is a State Jail Felony and punishable by serving anywhere from 180 days to two years in a State Jail facility or a fine up to $10,000 or both.