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Top O.C. Cops Are Victims of Car Burglary

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The brazen burglar smashed the windows of two cars in the busy restaurant parking lot, snatched a cellular phone from each vehicle and disappeared without a trace.

It could have been anybody’s lunch-hour nightmare. But this time the victims were two of the county’s top cops--Orange County Sheriff Brad Gates and Undersheriff Raul Ramos.

“It’s kind of embarrassing,” Tustin Police Lt. Bob Schoenkopf said of the Monday heist outside a Marie Callender’s Restaurant & Bakery. “I guess nobody’s safe.”

The thief broke through the driver’s-side window of Gates’ 1991 Lincoln Town Car and bashed in the passenger-side glass on Ramos’ 1995 Chevy Caprice. Gone were Gates’ Motorola flip phone and Ramos’ hand-held cellular model.

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The 1:45 p.m. break-in happened as Gates and Ramos lunched at the restaurant’s bar with a group of Sheriff’s Department employees, said Patricia Garcia, the restaurant’s assistant general manager.

The restaurant, in the 700 block of West 1st Street, has been a favorite lunch stop for Gates for years, because he often can get quick service at the bar without having to wait for a table, she said.

“They come here all the time,” Garcia said. “As a matter of fact, we just threw a retirement party for one of their secretaries.”

But even the sheriff’s haunt is no stranger to car break-ins, Schoenkopf said.

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“The parking lot out in the back is way out of view of most people on the street,” he said. Break-ins “are not really unusual because of the lack of visibility, and you could say that about a dozen other places in town too.”

Sheriff’s Lt. Ron Wilkerson confirmed that the theft occurred and referred questions to Tustin police, who responded to the call.

“I went to give the sheriff a hard time about it, but he’s gone for the day,” Wilkerson said Tuesday.

Schoenkopf said that one officer responded to the call at the restaurant but that what came next was just business as usual: no special treatment, no suspects and no leads.

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Times staff writer Thao Hua contributed to this report.


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