Deputies arrested two suspects Friday believed to have stolen a 12-foot-tall horse statue from a small El Cajon business, which its owner called a “welcoming mascot.”
Percy Hill and Rick Freeman face a charge of theft after the 350-pound wrought iron sculpture went missing on Oct. 2, according to the San Diego County Sheriff's Department.
The metal stallion was recovered at a home in Golden Valley, Arizona.
NBC 7 spoke with the horse statue’s owner, Rita Gallant, after she reported it stolen on Oct. 12.
Gallant owns the Double S Tack and Feed store on Olde Highway 80. The sculpture, valued at up to $4,000, was a gift when she bought the company.
“He's incredibly beautiful, very strong,” Gallant told NBC 7. “He's just magical when you drive in the driveway and see him. He's really a welcoming mascot for this store.”
According to Gallant, the statue has become a popular piece of art in the East County community. At least once a week, she gets an offer from someone who wants to buy it.
And, in early October, the horse certainly caught someone's eye.
A surveillance camera at the store caught the thief in the act at around 2 a.m. Gallant said the suspect appeared to be strategic in the way he approached the statue.
“The video we have of him is coming across here. Normally, someone would walk straight across the parking lot and head over to the horse, but he doesn't do that. He goes across the front of the store, so he avoids all these cameras,” she told NBC 7.
The San Diego County Sheriff's Department described Hill as a 56-year-old from Golden Valley, Arizona, and Freeman as a 62-year-old from Lakeside, California.
Hill and Freeman were booked into a detention facility in their area, deputies said.
In a press release, San Diego deputies said, “The community associated with this business was instrumental in identifying potential leads for investigators to utilize in this investigation.”
The investigation was led by detectives from the San Diego County Sheriff's Department in Alpine with assistance from the Arizona Department of Public Safety’s Gang and Immigration Intelligence Team Enforcement Mission Taskforce.