An east San Diego man was arrested Tuesday for allegedly stealing spent grain — a byproduct of the craft brewing process — from a popular Santee brewery to feed his barnyard animals, officials said.
According to the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department, the Twisted Manzanita Ales brewery had reported the theft of spent grain from the facility on at least four separate occasions to officials. The stolen brewing byproduct, commonly sold as animal feed, was valued at about $2,150, and the brewers had planned to donate it to local farmers.
"[This is] getting our farmers frustrated because they were relying on that for their livestock," said Jeff Trevaskis, owner of Twisted Manzanita Ales.
To tap into the case, detectives conducted a surveillance of the brewery property early Tuesday morning. At around 5:30 a.m., detectives spotted William Aston, 32, drive up in a pickup truck near where the spent grain was kept and load about 450 pounds of it into the bed of his truck.
Deputies approached Aston before he could drive away. They discovered that Aston, a felon, had an active arrest warrant for an unrelated traffic case. When deputies searched his truck, they found firearm ammunition, too.
Trevaskis said the suspect did not have to go through all this trouble to get the spent grain.
"If somebody wants something and is down on their luck, come and ask me," he told NBC 7 Wednesday. "I'll feel free to give you a couple buckets of grain."
Aston was down on his luck. He lives with his mother, Debbie, who had to quit her job because of complications from a cancer surgery.
But the two have barnyard animals to feed, including pigs, chicken and cows.
"I think he was just trying to help," said Debbie. "You know, take care of everything so I'm not selling everything off."
The sheriff’s department said Aston was arrested for the theft of the spent grain, the arrest warrant and for being a felon in possession of ammunition.
She told NBC 7 Aston did not carry a gun, and the ammunition found in the truck was used on their property to scare off coyotes and rattlesnakes that attacked the livestock.
Because of a past conviction for transporting undocumented immigrants, he could face more serious charges and prison time.
The spend grain was returned to the brewery. The investigation is ongoing.
Aston was booked into San Diego Central Jail and is scheduled to make a court appearance on Thursday.