By RICHARD PALOMA
When Oakdale Police Officer Sam Gallego received information of a security camera taken from an overnight theft from Body Tropics on South Second Avenue, he took quick action investigating the incident and sharing information and leads with fellow officers. The result: within 40 minutes the suspect was identified, located, arrested, and the property returned to its owner.
On Thursday, Feb. 4, at 9 a.m., Officer Gallego responded to the salon and was told a security camera valued at over $1,200 had been taken from in front of the facility. Though the camera was forcibly removed, the image of the suspect was captured on the salon’s security system.
Using his cell phone, Officer Gallego, who has only been in police work for a year, reviewed the images and took a photo of the suspect. He then circulated it via text to his fellow officers in hopes of someone identifying him. In a matter of minutes senior officers identified the subject as Matthew Scott Ray, 28, of Oakdale, who has had previous contacts with the department.
At 9:40 a.m. Officer Matt Gardette, who had just gone off-duty, spotted Ray in front of Medlen’s House of Beef. Officer Gardette notified Officer Gallego who responded to the downtown area and found Ray on North Third Avenue.
Officer Gallego questioned Ray and got him to admit to taking the camera. Ray led Officer Gallego to a nearby restaurant dumpster where he had previously discarded the camera. The camera was recovered and returned to Body Tropics.
Ray was arrested for a felony charge of grand theft and booked at Stanislaus County Jail.
“Fortunately the trash had not been picked up that day,” Gallego said. “It turned out to be a great example of teamwork.”