Homeowners in Oregon issue deadly warning to looters looking to break into homes during evacuations

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MARION COUNTY, OR – Two men were arrested on September 10th for charges related to looting within Marion County, which the area has been suffering from the damages caused by the Beachie Creek fire, according to reports.

In the wake of these recent arrests, officials are warning locals of opportunists potentially looting residential areas impacted by the fires. The manner in which some of the locals in adjacent counties are reacting to the potential presence of looters is via displaying warning signs that looters will be shot.

On September 8th at approximately 10:15 a.m., authorities were notified about a suspicious van that was located in the town of Detroit – which happens to be one of the many areas that were evacuated in Oregon due to the Beachie Creek fire.

Apparently, fire crews within the same area had reported seeing a similar vehicle in Idanha.

Deputies from the Marion County Sheriff’s Office began pursuing the suspicious van while heading west on Oregon 22, which deputies were also assisted by the Oregon State Police and the Linn County Sheriff’s Office.

Homeowners in Oregon issue deadly warning to looters looking to break into homes during evacuations
Anthony Travis Bodda – MCSO

The van was said to have even driven through a golf course to avoid getting stopped by authorities, which was ultimately a failed attempt after deputies deployed spike strips to disable the vehicle.

The suspects, identified as 21-year-old Anthony Travis Bodda and 36-year-old Alexander Justin Jones, tried to flee authorities on foot after the van was disabled.

Homeowners in Oregon issue deadly warning to looters looking to break into homes during evacuations
Alexander Justin Jones – MCSO

However, with the assistance of K9 units, authorities tracked down and arrested Bodda and Jones.

Deputies said that there were numerous items within the van which was suspected to be stolen property. Jones was reportedly charged with attempted theft, attempting to elude authorities and interfering with a peace officer.

Homeowners in Oregon issue deadly warning to looters looking to break into homes during evacuations
Alexander Justin Jones – MCSO

Bodda was hit with numerous charges, which included possession of burglary tools, several charges of attempting to elude authorities, reckless driving and much more.  

Homeowners in Oregon issue deadly warning to looters looking to break into homes during evacuations
Anthony Travis Bodda – MCSO

When speaking about the case, MCSO Sheriff Joe Kast had the following to say in light of the fires wreaking havoc in Oregon:

 “I am disappointed that while in a state of emergency these people would victimize members of our community. The women and men of the Marion County Sheriff’s Office are committed to holding people accountable if they chose to victimize residents from our evacuated areas.”

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Considering that areas impacted by the fires are being subjected to burglaries, locals in Clackamas County – roughly 2-3 hours away from Marion County – have been placing signs throughout the area carrying variations of the same message.

That message is that those caught looting will be shot.

Signs throughout the area hosted warnings such as:

“Looters + arsonists will be shot”

“Looters will be shot”

“Home and armed. U loot we shoot!”

“We won’t call your family. Your body will never be found! Bang bang!!”

Of course, with said signs cropping up, there are those among the social media peanut gallery that are acting as though locals are overreacting to the potential threat of miscreants attempting to capitalize on areas impacted by the fires.

One Twitter user responded to the presence of the signs in Clackamas County, saying the following:

“Has anyone actually been looted. And by who? These rural people are afraid of non existent boogeyman thanks to social media rumors.”

Except, it’s not a rumor, as Clackamas County has already experienced forms of theft from homes in areas impacted by the fires. The areas of Mulino and Molalla, which both are currently level 2 evacuation zones in the county, experienced thefts as recently as September 11th.

The signs have been spotted in numerous areas sharing the warnings to those who may be tempted to raid the homes of areas enduring the ongoing fires.

Despite some of the snarky responses online from people alleging that there’s no threat of looting or burglaries in rural areas, others are making the reasonable connection that if someone isn’t trying to loot anyone’s property – then there’s no reason to be concerned about the signage.

But the rhetoric being spun in order to condone these sorts of crimes is frankly appalling.

It can certainly make one wonder during these chaotic times as to where folks’ moral compasses are positioned.

Family: Boy, 13, died in wildfire trying to save his grandmother and family dog

LYONS, OR- Wyatt Tofte, a 13-year-old boy died as he tried to save his grandmother from the wildfires that engulfed cities and towns along the West Coast. 

The wildfire, initially was 15 miles away, but spread rapidly and while the family was asleep, the fire reached the home forcing Angela Mosso, Wyatt’s mother to rush her son, mother, and pet dog (a 200 pound bullmastiff mix) into the family car. However, the car did not make it far as it quickly stopped.

Angela was then forced to send her son and dog out on foot. She also had to say goodbye to her mother, Peggy Mosso, who was unable to walk any further. Angela then began walking away from the fire to safety. Susan Vaslev, Wyatt’s great aunt and spokesperson for the family told CNN:

“She knew the only way for her son to survive was to run. So, she told Wyatt and the dog to run.”

According to reports, Chris Tofte, the boy’s father drove to a nearby town that night to pick up a trailer with the hopes of returning to take the rest of the family and their belongings to safety. He was also in town searching for a generation as the high winds forced the power to go out before the fire actually started.

Angela walked roughly three miles before she was saved by her husband, who made his way back towards the house and was searching for his family. As he struggled to navigate the dark, smokey road, he almost ran over a barefoot woman in her underwear with charred hair and a blackened mouth.

Chris stopped to help the woman into his car, telling her that he was looking for his wife and son. The woman said:

“I am your wife.”

Chris took his wife to safety where he left her with paramedics and then went back out towards the house to look for his son and mother-in-law. However, at that point the fires had spread even father and he could not make it as far as he did the first time. 

The next day and night, Chris continued to search for his son and mother-in-law. However, he could not find them. A few days later authorities did find Wyatt. He was in the driver’s seat of the family car with the dog in his lap and the grandmother’s remains in the back of the car.

Lonnie Bertallato, Angela’s brother said that he believes the wheels on the car melted, which is why his sister was forced to send her son and dog out on foot, leave her own mother behind, and walk towards safety.He said:

“I don’t need to go into too much detail, but obviously, he turned around to try and save his grandma.”

The great aunt, Susan said:

“Wyatt ended up going back to the car and tried to drive his grandmother out. So, he attempted to drive that car and he, the roads were so hot that it burned up the tires and so he wasn’t able to drive it to safety. Did not make it out of the fire.”

She added:

“It’s devastating, just the way it happened and the whole store and who was lost. Any time a young child dies in a fire like that and the details, it’s just something that you can’t wrap you head around and it just hurts.”

Angela, the mother, suffered burns across her whole body, but is expected to survive. Susan said:

“She has a long road to go, but to come out of that, we all know surviving full-body burns is a painful experience in itself. Recovering from that and then to come back to your song having died and your mother having died.”

According to recent reports, Governor Kate Brown said that more than 40,000 Oregonians have been evacuated from their homes as the two large windblown wildfires raged across the Pacific Northwest. In addition, about 500,000 people are in different levels of evacuation zones. Dozens of people have been reported missing with at least six fatalities reported.

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Here is another article from Law Enforcement Today about the deadly wildfires spreading through the West Coast:

SAN FRANCISCO, CA – This is the thanks our first responders get.

A commander working the CZU Lightning Complex Fire had his department vehicle broken into.   His wallet was stolen and bank account emptied.

ABC30 in California reported that at a press briefing Sunday morning, CAL FIRE operations chief Mark Brunton said the theft happened while the crew member was taking care of business and directing firefighting crews.

“To me, it’s just mind-boggling that somebody would have the audacity to do something like that,” said Santa Cruz County Sheriff Jim Hart during a press briefing.

The stealing from a crew member comes after officials say they arrested five people for allegedly looting evacuated properties.

“It’s terrible and disgusting,” Chief Deputy Chris Clark with the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office said. “These five decided to victimize several of our community members who are already hurting.”

Now, firefighters and other local officials have to deal with people who don’t want to evacuated because they are afraid that if the fire doesn’t get them, the looters will. 

Thousands of people have been evacuated from their homes by the wildfires and criminals are organized and ready to steal what little these people have left.

A report in Stars and Stripes indicates that at last eight people have been arrested in conjunction with these crimes.  Santa Cruz County Sheriff, Jim Hart, said:

“More (arrests) are expected as the public reports a lot of looting going on.”

The report goes on to say that at least 100 officers are patrolling the zones and deputies are stopping any non-first-responder vehicles.

“I have no empathy, I have no patience for somebody who’s going to come into our community and steal from people who have been evacuated and victimized and traumatized,” Hart said during a news conference with county District Attorney Jeffrey Rosell. 

“I can’t imagine a bigger low-life,” Hart continued.

The Los Angeles Times report that roughly 77,000 have been evacuated in San Mateo and Santa Cruz counties, leaving ample opportunity for unscrupulous individuals to take advantage of those already placed in a precarious situation.

In addition to the deadly fires (5 lives have been lost to date) and the looting, scammers abound. The Sheriff’s Offices for Monterey and Santa Cruz counties, and Cal Fire, are warning people about scams pretending to be people from different official local agencies.

“If you get a call from any sort of official source, if you question the validity of it – and you should question the validity of those calls – contact the agency directly,” Santa Cruz County Chief Deputy Chris Clark said in an interview with KSBW

He said that calls are coming from people claiming that residents owe agencies such as PG&E, law enforcement or another agency money and that the calls are not legitimate.

Yes, scammers and looters are out in force, targeting law abiding citizens and those trying to help them through this tragic natural disaster.

Far be it from any of them to get a job, or try to help make the situation better.  As usual, these dregs of humanity think only of themselves.

In the meantime, as always, our faithful first responders are putting their lives on the line to try and mitigate the disastrous fires that have already claimed 771,000 California acres in 2020. 

The SCU Lightning Complex fire, where the officer had his wallet stolen, is responsible for 347,196 of those acres and is only 10% contained as of this writing.  Stats can be found for all California Fires at Cal Fire.

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