Antioch searches for thief at large

October 7, 2008 7:02:52 PM PDT
Armed police and search dogs combed an Antioch neighborhood looking for 32-year-old John Charles Walters, an Oakley man investigators say is the primary suspect in a string of residential burglaries in Orinda and Lafayette.

"We were told that he was seen possibly armed with a silver or chrome handgun," Orinda police spokesperson Sgt. Andre Charles said. "He's been known to wear a bullet-proof vest, so we believe him to be armed and dangerous at this point."

Investigators believe Walters is the ringleader of a group of thieves who have committed at least 20 daytime burglaries in the past two months. The method: watch and wait for a resident to leave.

"They will have that person followed and once they know the person has reached their destination or has maybe gotten on the freeway going somewhere, they will return to the house and commit the crime," Charles said.

Police also think the ring uses GPS systems to make a fast getaway.

In half the cases, the burglars broke a door or window, in the other half, they found one unlocked. Often, alarms were left unset."

Police believe Joani Cox was one of Walters' victims.

"I happen to leave my backdoor to the garage, unlocked," Cox said.

In August, Cox left her Lafayette home to run errands. She returned 45 minutes later to find her house ransacked and $50,000 worth of property gone, including her safe.

"They took all of my jewelry; they took iPods, they took digital cameras, they took everything they could put in my Louis Vuitton purse and my Louis Vuitton briefcase," Cox said.

In some cases, the burglars have used address information found on victims' computers to target other residences.

So far, police have arrested three suspects believed to be associates of Walters.


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