BREA – Three men suspected of breaking into up to three eyewear stores in Orange County were arrested after a short pursuit early Wednesday morning, police said.
The first smash-and-grab burglary happened about 1:30 a.m. at LensCrafters at 13662 Jamboree Road in the Irvine Market Place shopping center, with the thieves making off with $20,000 worth of high-end sunglasses, Irvine police Lt. Julian Engen said.
Many of the glasses appeared to have been Maui Jims, but officers are investigating whether other brands also were targeted, Engen said.
Witnesses told officers they saw at least two men fleeing in a black vehicle. Officers then put out a countywide alert.
Just before 2 a.m., a Brea officer who heard the broadcast set up surveillance at the LensCrafters store at 1040 E. Imperial Highway in Brea in case it was a serial burglary, Brea Lt. Jim Griffin said.
“Sometimes they do serial burglaries of specific businesses, because they want specific merchandise and they are familiar with the layout of the store,” Griffin said.
Moments later, the officer saw a black 2011 Volkswagen Jetta back up to the front of the LensCrafters. Then two men got out of the vehicle, smashed the glass door, entered the store and took high-end sunglasses, Griffin said.
The officer chased the vehicle north on the 57 freeway and the car stopped at Diamond Bar Boulevard in Diamond Bar. Two men stayed in the vehicle and a third ran down an embankment but was arrested by Brea officers, who were assisted by Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies, Griffin said.
A substantial amount of sunglasses were found in the vehicle, Griffin said.
The men who were arrested were identified as Justin Valdepena, 23, of Whittier; Kyle Ochoa, 19, of Claremont; and Thomas Mackinlay, 23, of Hacienda Heights. They were being held on suspicion of burglary in the Brea case, Griffin said.
Detectives are also looking into a third burglary reported at a Lake Forest eyewear store. About 1:40 a.m., Orange County sheriff’s deputies found smashed glass and missing high-end sunglasses at Eye Styles for Lifestyles at 22681 Lake Forest Drive, said Jim Amormino, an Orange County Sheriff’s Department spokesman.
Griffin said detectives are trying to determine if the three smash-and-grab burglaries are connected.
By DENISSE SALAZAR and SALVADOR HERNANDEZ / THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER
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