California burglary suspect charged for looting in emergency

News

A man arrested in Northern California for allegedly burglarizing at least two businesses faces the unusual charge of looting during a state of emergency — a charge that carries an enhanced sentence of at least six months in jail.

Criminal penalties for common shoplifting and theft are greatly enhanced under California’s looting law, officials said, with violations punishable by incarceration for up to three years and a fines up to $10,000. The charge carries a mandatory minimum sentence of six months in county jail.

Neil Bruce Waldron, 51, of Covelo, was arrested Friday by deputies who responded to a reported burglary at a clothing store in Covelo, Mendocino County Sheriff Sgt. Joseph DeMarco said Monday.

It wasn’t immediately known if Waldron has an attorney who can speak on his behalf.

Deputies found a shop window broken and a black pellet rifle apparently abandoned by the burglar on the floor of the store, which was in disarray. The store’s owner told them an iPad was missing, DeMarco said.

While investigating the burglary, the deputies learned a nearby grocery store had also been broken into. Surveillance video from the store showed Waldron breaking a door’s glass with a pellet rifle, then taking alcoholic beverages and cigarettes before leaving, DeMarco said.

Waldron was also charged with two counts of burglary and violation of probation. He was booked into the Mendocino County Jail where he was being held in lieu of $20,000 bail.

Deputies are investigating a third robbery Friday, DeMarco said.