Lucy Flores wanted to catch a thief.
It began when her father, Arturo Bocanegra, was having his refrigerator repaired. The repairman fixed the problem, but had to leave to take care of another repair request before he could reinstall the refrigerator.
Instead of waiting for the repairman to return, Bocanegra declined the offer, saying that his son-in-law could do it. The repairman wheeled the heavy appliance to the front of the house, and left it there attached to the dolly.
Later that morning, Flores, who lives next door, heard the sound of heavy equipment, and saw her father’s refrigerator being loaded on a truck with the dolly still attached. She asked her father whether the repairman was coming again, and he told her no.
“They loaded it pretty quickly because it was on a dolly ready to be put in to the house,” Flores says. “The thieves just loaded the refrigerator and drove away carefully so the other refrigerators they had would not tilt over.”
Flores then did something uncharacteristic. Having just been released from the hospital recovering from a 3-week coma and subsequent 9-month stay, she jumped in her father’s 15-passenger van and followed the thieves.
“I must have been following them slowly,” Flores says. “My following techniques were not up to par, and I lost them. I turned left, and they went right. I decided to give it up. It was not meant for me to catch up to these thugs.”
She stopped at an intersection, and saw the same white pickup with the three refrigerators in the back. She thought maybe they were picking up junk, but they were in someone else’s back yard.
“They were not looking for junk but for things to take,” Flores says. “I caught up with them, and drove the big van right in front of them. I leaned over the passenger side and asked what they were going to with the fridges.
“[The driver] acted alarmed and stunned. He said he was picking them up. When I asked him if he repaired and sold them, he became offensive and claimed he had an order to pick it up.”
Flores then ordered the man to give her refrigerator back. She says it was her chance to stand up for her neighborhood. The man relented, taking the refrigerator back and leaving it on her driveway.
She called the police, and says she felt that she was wasting time on the call, but officers assured her that she did the right thing. Dallas Police Sr. Cpl. Herb Ebsen says Flores was lucky.
“We don’t recommend face to face encounters with suspects, but if you find yourself following a suspect in a vehicle, then maintain a safe distance and call 911,” Ebsen says. “Get the license number and street direction. We try to get on those types of calls very quickly. We have everything there and will catch them.” —GABBY MARTINEZ