Suspects pursued from a burglary at a BevMo! store are being investigated for possible connections to a series of high-dollar smash and grabs that have targeted the big box wine and spirits chain.
The latest to be hit is the Culver City BevMo! on Sepulveda Boulevard. An estimated $7,000 worth of acoholic beverages was taken during the break-in shortly after midnight Monday morning, according to police.
Responding officers pursued a Dodge minivan to the Jefferson Park area of Los Angeles, and made three arrests there. During the pursuit, many of the bottles were tossed out of the van, police said.
"Bevmo specifically has been experiencing a rash of robberies," said Capt. Sam Agaiby of the Culver City Police Department.
Investigators are now in contact with other agencies, sharing notes and comparing security camera images, in an effort to determine if the three arrested were involved in other burglaries, Agaiby said.
Police described the three as men in their forties with extensive criminal records — one currrently on probation — but declined to disclose their names, citing the ongoing investigation.
Responding to a burglar alarm, officers discovered a smashed front window, and around back found a Dodge minivan pulling away, nearly striking on officer, according to Agaiby. He said the officer fired, but no one was struck, and the van led officers on a pursuit that ended some six miles to the east on Jefferson Boulevard near 10th Avenue.
The van stopped in the parking lot of an apartment building, and the men dispersed, one of them scaling the fence into the back area of the adjacent Harold and Belle's Restaurant.
Security camera video showed the man running frantically through the yard trying to elude police, before climbing onto a storage shed and then onto the roof of the banquet hall annex.
"He tried to hide behind the air conditioning. But it's a flat roof — there's no place to hide," said Ryan Legaux, the restaurant's owner, who was working late in his upstairs office when he heard the commotion.
Two other suspects were also arrested, including a man hiding in a trash barrell, Agaiby said.
In recent months, there have been burglaries reported at BevMo! stores in Whittier, San Diego and San Luis Obispo, among other locations in Southern California.
The section of glass shattered at the Culver City store was located behind a protective barrier known as a bollard. Police do not think the van was driven through the window, but instead some kind of implement was used to break the glass.
Staff at the BevMo! Culver City store and the BevMo! corporate office declined comment, citing the ongoing investigation.