Carbondale solar panel theft eyed differently by cops, DA’s office
CARBONDALE, Colorado- Carbondale police and the District Attorney’s Office have an apparent difference of opinion over whether there is enough evidence for an arrest in the theft of 30 solar panels from the town’s recreation center.
Carbondale police were prepared to arrest a suspect on June 1 for possession of stolen property. But the 9th Judicial District Attorney’s Office believes investigators need to collect more evidence before they will approve an arrest warrant, according to Chief Deputy District Attorney Jim Leuthauser.
“There were major concerns about the sufficiency of information in that warrant,” Leuthauser said. Those concerns were explained to the police department and no other warrant has been submitted so far, he said.
The solar panels were plucked off the roof of the Carbondale Recreation Center in the early hours of Memorial Day. The panels are among 288 installed on the rec center. Their absence wasn’t spotted until later in the week.
Once the theft became public, two witnesses came forward with information that helped the investigation.
One of those witnesses reported seeing a truck owned by someone she knew outside of the rec center early on Memorial Day. Carbondale officers learned that the suspect was staying at a residence in Aspen. Police in Aspen found the 30 solar panels loaded on a flat-bed truck owned by the suspect outside the residence. Serial numbers confirmed they were the panels from the Carbondale Recreation Center, so they were confiscated and most of them have been reinstalled. Two panels were damaged.
“We had a vehicle that had stolen property in it and we know who the owner is,” Schilling said.
People unfamiliar with the justice process wonder why Carbondale police haven’t arrested the suspect with evidence that seems so overwhelming. Arrest warrants are routinely reviewed by the district attorneys for a decision on whether they should be submitted to a judge. The District Attorney’s Office makes the call because they must prosecute the case in court.
Sometimes differences of opinion surface between district attorneys’ staffs and law enforcement jurisdictions.
Schilling said he has been asked by “many, many people” why there hasn’t been an arrest in the high-profile case.
“That is a question that needs to be answered by the district attorney, not by me,” Schilling said.
Neither Schilling nor Leuthauser would disclose what additional information the district attorney’s office requested for the arrest warrant.
Schilling said he remains confident an arrest will be made. “At some point, yes, but I don’t know when that point is.”
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