Computer thief caught in foot pursuit Thursday morning

At approximately 2:30 a.m. Thursday, June 8 the Winslow Police Department booked William E. Ferguson of Winslow into the Navajo County jail facility in Winslow for burglary, possession of burglary tools, resisting arrest and aggravated assault. This was a culmination of the investigation into a series of burglaries in which computer CPU's and related items were stolen.

Burglar tools, including the rope used to come down into the detective building, pry bar and electric drill in a canvas bag. photo: L.S. Scala

In the morning there were grins all around and a certain atmosphere of triumph at the police department. It is not every day that the effort to catch a crook pays off so completely. In this case first they caught him with investigation and carefully compiled evidence, then he dropped into their arms-so to speak.

Chief Ray Sands said that in the collection of evidence, "That was just good police work. Sgt. Sepi deserves the credit for his tenaciousness and determination on this case."

First there were the burglaries. Some of the burglary entries were made by going in through the roof. The Community Counseling Center was hit twice, with burglaries reported on May 16 and May 29. The BNSF offices and the Chamber of Commerce office at the Visitor's Center each lost thousands of dollars of equipment reported on June five and six. The Chamber of Commerce reported at its monthly board meeting that there was also the loss of the information held on the hard drive. For all of those who lost computers this is one of the most serious results.

Eventually the thief made a mistake and left evidence at the scene. The police investigation led by Sgt. Sepi traced the equipment left behind and applied for a search warrant June seventh. This led to considerable delay and frustration, because the judges for Winslow were all out of town and when a judge was found in Lakeside, the fax machine kept blurring the transmission of the warrant.

Finally, at 6 p.m. June seventh they were ready to go. When the police arrived at Ferguson's residence they confiscated numerous pieces of computer equipment, but had mostly parts, not complete equipment. The police left a careful list with the suspect of each piece of equipment they brought into the evidence locker. This case still had a lot of work to do before all the connections could be made.

At approximately 1:35 a.m. June eighth Lt. Steve Garnett was in his office in the Winslow Police Department Administration/ Investigations Office building doing the paperwork that keeps many officers working outside regular hours, when he heard a noise. Maybe it was mice.

The noise persisted and Garnett called for Sgt. Jon Miller, who was on duty, to join him in checking out the building. Garnett boosted Miller up into the attic through the opening in the administration building's hall ceiling. Miller saw Ferguson entering the attic through the air vent on the roof. Miller went through the building and when he came out saw the suspect coming down from the roof on a rope. He reportedly told the man to come down slowly, but Ferguson swung out and dropped down on Miller, knocking him down. Lt. Garnett saw the man's shadow going across the roof as he circled outside and set out after him when he took off after dropping down from the roof. The police dispatcher's log reads: "Sgt. Miller advised, Lt. Garnett in pursuit of burglar attempting to get into Det.'s office."

Miller got his wind back and jumped into his car, joining the pursuit. Garnett and Miller apprehended the suspect, William Ferguson, on West Third Street near the USWest building. Ferguson had the evidence list of confiscated equipment in his pocket at the time.

Thursday morning Lt. V. John Martin noticed that the air conditioning was running without cutting off and the administration building was down to 58 degrees. Through investigation he found that the wires to the unit had been crossed during the night while the burglar attempted to enter the building. The wires got straightened out a system was working fine before the morning was over.

The burglaries are still under investigation. The Police department still needs to identify the parts they took from the Ferguson residence. Chief Sands said that they need serial numbers for parts and information on any pieces that were sold or traded to other places.

Anyone having information that may be helpful is asked to call the Winslow Police Department Crime Stop at 289-211, or the White Mountain Silent Witness at 1-800-782-0695. The police press release says, "We do not need your name, just your information."

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