Numerous business owners and employees around the Enchanted Circle have now shared in the similar experience of arriving at their stores to open for the day, only to find that someone else had arrived there first: their entry marked by a busted door jam and looted spaces where cash and other valuables had been stored for safekeeping.
Reeling from losses and business disruptions, all of them want to know: Who is doing the thieving and why have they not been caught?
KOKO Coffee, a small café and deli in a strip mall across from Five Star Burger in Taos, has been hit multiple times in recent weeks. Surveillance equipment inside the store captured a figure and partly concealed face now well-known to county law enforcement officials, who believe they belong to one man responsible for the series of break-ins and thefts.
Other Taos businesses targeted include the north side Blake’s Lota Burger, Southwest Wellness Center and SMD Zombie Tactical, where approximately 21 weapons were stolen but have not been recovered.
Taos Police Chief David Trujillo’s detectives are working the cases within town limits. Several factors lead them to believe the burglaries are being carried out by the same man, he says.
Trujillo’s department is posting photos of the suspect to social media to seek input from the public. He says the public can be an important source of information in making an identification that could ultimately end in an arrest.
Working with other agencies throughout the area could also increase the chances of finding the suspect.
The still-unidentified suspect first appeared over the summer on surveillance footage captured at businesses in Red River, about an hour north of Taos.
“The male is about 5-foot-10 to 6 feet tall, 170 to 190 pounds, always wears a dew rag, bandanna, long sleeves, gloves, and in many (cases) he carries along a large tool bag,” said Taos County Sheriff Jerry Hogrefe, who is working with Trujillo, New Mexico State Police and the Red River Marshal’s Office to solve the crimes.
Red River Town Marshall David Smith says the small mountain town of roughly 500 people has experienced burglaries at five locations in which the same man is the prime suspect – his brow and eyes barely visible between a rag covering his head and a bandana wrapped over his mouth.
“The burglar who we can ID as the same one hitting Angel Fire and Taos has gotten, in order, The Bull of the Woods, Climates, Capo’s, Ski area/Black Mountain Lodge and Capo’s again,” Smith said.
The Dairy Bar, a casual dining spot serving burgers and shakes, was robbed during business hours in June, but Smith says he doesn’t suspect the same man.
“Completely different set of circumstances,” Smith said. He pointed out differences in the man’s “body type and method of entry,” but said it’s possible the two criminals may know each other and could be working together.
Hogrefe said the burglar they are looking for tends to break into businesses through back or side doors and seems primarily interested in cash.
The sheriff said his office recently identified another suspect, Cameron Padilla, in four other thefts. Padilla is now in jail.
Hogrefe also said that he recently swore out a warrant for another “known burglar,” but that man remains on the loose.
As for the mystery burglar, county law enforcement agencies haven’t yet made an arrest, but are assuring the public that investigators are working the case.
In the meantime, they advise business owners to check their locks, windows and security systems, and to keep cash and other valuables locked up in case of a break in.