Things could have gone a lot worse for two Central Falls men who were caught attempting to break into the Burlington Coat Factory’s office on Nov. 26 and held at gunpoint until other officers arrived and placed them under arrest.
Sgt. Brian LeClair reported he was on patrol around 3:20 a.m. when he did a routine check on the doors of the retail store at 1386 Atwood Ave. He said he checked the front doors and was driving around to check the back doors when he saw a man dressed in black jump from the roof of an incomplete restaurant project underway at the site onto an attached cooler and then onto the ground. He said there was another ninja-style suspect sliding down a gas supply line from the same project. He said they both had black facemasks and gloves on. He said he called for backup and turned on his takedown lights, drew his weapon and ordered the two men to the ground, face down with their hands out.
“After a brief hesitation, both individuals got onto the ground and did as ordered to,” reported LeClair, “As I came closer, I observed him to be removing his mask and gloves. He then turned his body toward mine and charged toward me with both arms swinging with closed fists.”
LeClair said he beat the guy off with his flashlight as the other guy started getting up. He said he managed to retreat enough to re-orient his gun and point it right at his assailant and again ordered him to the ground and they both got down again. Other officers arrived and placed the suspects under arrest.
Police then looked around the scene and discovered that the men had a plan to break through several walls of sheet rock in the restaurant, through another sheet rock wall in a vacant office suite and then through one more wall and into the offices of the store where the safe — possibly filled with cash from Black Friday sales — was located. At this point, the plan went awry. The last wall was made of cinderblocks and the reciprocating saws and drills the men brought in their duffel-bag tool kit were useless. LeClair said there were several fresh chips and gouges in the wall but it appeared that they had to give up trying to get through that wall. He said the plate glass front windows in the vacant office were either blocked with loose sheets of drywall or sprayed over with black paint, to conceal what they were doing inside from anyone who drove by.
At the end of his report, LeClair speculated that the would-be thieves changed their plan when they hit the concrete wall and were up on the roof, looking for another way into the store’s office when LeClair came upon the scene.
LeClair reported each suspect had a two-way radio and “was wearing black gloves, a black mask and a pair of safety glasses.”
A police scanner and a GPS unit were found in a car nearby that belonged to the mother of one of the suspects.
Leonel Rojas, 24, of 29 Chestnut St. was charged with breaking and entering, attempted breaking and entering, possession of burglary tools, assault, resisting arrest and conspiracy. Rayder Medina, 24, of 140 Cross St. was charged with the same offenses, except for the assault and resisting. Both men were remanded to the ACI after they failed to raise the $40,000 surety bail demanded by the District Court. A check of court records was negative for prior arrests for Rojas. Medina was arrested for driving on a suspended license in 2006 and the case was dismissed.
On Wednesday, Deputy Chief David DeCesare said it is very likely that LeClair will be considered for a special commendation this year.
“This certainly rises to the level of that,” said DeCesare. “He showed great restraint in not shooting at them and managing to keep control. That’s very admirable.”