Another Brazen Orinda Burglary; Thieves "Don't Seem to Care Who Hears Them"

Orinda police are searching for a crew of bold and brazen burglars who broke into a home during daylight hours, leaving victims shocked and traumatized.

The shocked victims and neighbors in the Upper El Toyonal neighborhood have asked Patch to keep their identities private but they are speaking out in hopes of finding a car driven by thieves who "didn't seem to care if anyone heard them" as they raided one home while a neighbor looked on.

On Tuesday, about 1:30 p.m., a resident heard a car revving up on a narrow road in his neighborhood. When he looked outside to investigate, he said he saw three young men, possibly in their 20s or 30s, running into his neighbor’s yard. He suspected they were burglars trying to gain entry and immediately notified Orinda police. 

According to the neighbor, the three thieves brazenly knocked down the side door of his neighbor's home and entered the residence. He said the thieves were very “loud when knocking down the door, as if they didn’t care who heard.” Within minutes of breaking in, the thieves got into a gold (mini) van (Toyota or Honda) and drove off quickly.

Another resident who was driving up the same road had to swerve to avoid getting into a collision. This neighbor thinks the driver of the getaway car may have had a darker complexion.

Orinda police arrived about 5 to 10 minutes after the neighbor called in to report the crime just as the owner of the burgled residence returned home. Police and neighbors told the homeowner what had occurred and the shell-shocked resident went inside to see the havoc the thieves left behind.

She said the side door was kicked in and so severely damaged it had to be replaced. A full inventory of items stolen has yet to be completed but the thieves did manage to steal the family television, a Wii console and cameras.

The residents are pretty shaken and traumatized, expressing surprise that the presence of a large dog in the back yard did nothing to deter the thieves. The neighbor who witnessed the crime said he was "quite astonished" by the volatility of their actions while they committed the crime. He said he could not believe how loud they were breaking in, knowing that neighbors were home.

Neighbors speaking to Patch for this story expressed continued belief in Orinda police and said they were "impressed" by how quickly they arrived at the scene. Because the thieves were in the home for just a few minutes and managed to elude a police cordon thrown up to block their escape, many are wondering what more can be done to prevent these crimes.

Sue Haas May 27, 2011 at 03:41 PM
Your grampie sounds like my grampie. A real softie until you rile him. He has the wounds and the medals to prove it. Let's hope it doesn't come to that.
Robert Strauss May 27, 2011 at 04:03 PM
Hitting closer and closer to home. We have taken preventative measures but I am amazed by the number of my neighbors who blow this threat off and seem willing to leave it to chance. One guy told me: if they want it that badly they can have it. Damn, not me folks I WORKED for my stuff!!
The Merry One May 27, 2011 at 04:08 PM
Yes, this is also happening in secluded neighborhoods in WC. A friend's high school senior walked in on burglars ransacking their home last week. They had entered through a side door. She surprised them by walking in the front door. Thankfully, they did not injure her. A large barking dog did not deter them.
Carol Ann Long May 27, 2011 at 04:35 PM
This neighbor did the right thing. He or she observed what was going on and called police, giving a description to officers coming to the area. It is not their job to engage in a gunfight with thieves in a residential neighborhood. The neighbor is to be applauded for doing what they did.
Mark Roberts May 27, 2011 at 05:18 PM
It took them awhile but the druggies, thugs and gang-bangers from Oakland, West County and especially East County have discovered that Lamorinda and Walnut Creek homes make great convenience stores to fund their habits. As Orinda Police Chief Jeff Jennings has stated, if you have a security system, USE IT even if you're only going to be away for a few minutes. That's all the time it takes these career criminals and professional opportunists to break in and take what they want. They don't care what the neighbors see or think -- kudos to the El Toyonal neighbor for doing just the right thing. They'll keep coming back until they're caught. So let's use our security systems, keep our eyes open, watch out for our neighbors and nail these home invaders ASAP!
Peter Kendall May 27, 2011 at 05:46 PM
All these recent Patch articles have so worried us, we decided to take the Chief's (and others') advice and start using our alarm again. We had the alarm company come out and give our system a good going-over. Good thing we did, since the wireless central-station communicator was inoperative, and one motion detector was "falsing." We also put on new door locks, that automatically lock the deadbolt after 30 seconds. A keypad on the lock and a five-digit code opens the door; a minor inconvenience, but easier than a key... and far better than rushing out, leaving the premises unlocked. Finally, a couple of wireless webcams were installed. They permit live-video and audio monitoring remotely (over an internet connection), and also store snapshots of motion-triggered activity in the house. They'll even email us an alert if they detect an intruder. Of course, as we've read here, the brazen burglars don't seem to care if they're live on candid camera!
Gr8Wahl May 27, 2011 at 05:57 PM
A police friend said that if you have an old truck or car and see something like this happening...park it in the way.Their vehicle is blocked and the burglars are sent scrambling on foot.No shots fired.My concern is that you would have them running through the neighborhood looking for a way out. No alarm system stops someone from breaking down a door.
Bob and Ann May 27, 2011 at 06:11 PM
were hearing through the neighborhood grapevine that a FedX or UPS man rang the doorbell during the Moraga robbery and was surprised when all these guys started coming out of the house. They took the pillowcases off the beds and put the owner's belongings in to carry them out. I would like it VERY MUCH if the police can catch these people in the act and Patch is there to get pictures of them as they are marched away. We've been taking this for too long and it is evident criminal gangs or groups are coming here to rob us. thank you.
bryan May 27, 2011 at 09:19 PM
I am reminded of the grizzled old ex marine I read about recently who decided to take a cruise to South America and who was apparently bored stiff the whole way down until they took one of those excursion buses ashore and it was promptly held up by a gang of thugs, one of them armed with a gun. My hero slipped up behind the guy with the heater and snapped his neck with one of those fancy Marine sneaky hold things - snick - and the guy folded like a cheap suit. All the other thuggies ran home to Mommy. How can we get that guy to retire to Lamolinda?
Eliz May 27, 2011 at 09:29 PM
You have to understand that you cannot shoot people who are taking or damaging property. It is illegal. You will go to jail.
Chris Nicholson May 27, 2011 at 10:27 PM
Nope. Wrong. See Cal Penal Code 198.5. This is called the "Castle Doctrine." In California, if someone breaks into your house when you're home, you can pretty much blast away with impunity. Technically, the protection is rebuttable, but I unless you tell the cops/DA "I had no fear of harm to myself or family, but calmly shot him anyway," I think you're good to go.* *This is not legal advice.
Michael Taylor May 27, 2011 at 10:34 PM
Right. The "Castle Doctrine" also applies to leafblower noise and amplified music intruding on the old castle. You are free to return fire with catapult and trebuchet. Definitely not legal advice. Headed to the cabin for the weekend, folks, ya'll stay safe down in the flatlands!!
Eliz May 27, 2011 at 11:25 PM
If you are home and you can say you are afraid for your life....it is true that you have the right to defend yourself. But, you cannot upon discovery of a thief in your house; shoot him. Castle doctrine is myth. Plus those guys can get free legal defense. Thanks Michael...make sure you leave your door unlocked so they don't have to kick it down.
Chris Nicholson May 27, 2011 at 11:55 PM
Umm...not sure how a law on the books is a "myth." You, in fact, don't need to "say you were afraid for your life." The law presumes that you possess such a state of mind and excuses the killing. The State would need to prove that you WEREN'T afraid of harm (you don't need to fear death). I also don't think you need to be present in your home BEFORE the burglars enter. The law doesn't say that anywhere (google it). I think if you came home to find your door busted, entered to investigate (making a stop to get your gun), and "upon discovery of a thief, [shot] him," you'd be good to go. Of course you could construct an extreme version of the facts whereby you could be prosecuted, but, in the real world, how likely is that? And, BTW, corpses don't get Public Defenders and I doubt the homeowner would need council. Anyway, sorry to be prickly, but I think we're all better off when bad guys have a fear of death when they are about to kick down our doors. Finally: attention crooks, Michael Taylor's home will be vacant this weekend. Expensive winter sports gear is likely to be found inside. I, on the other hand, will be at home in a shadowy corner cleaning my Glock 23.
Eliz May 28, 2011 at 12:13 AM
Well, you are most likely correct. I read the law and it is pretty much as my father said "if you shoot them on the porch....drag them into the house". I do not have a gun. The robbers are bold. I think my best defense is knowing all my neighbors. We watch out for each other. ...have for many years. Thinking of you in the dark cleaning a Glock 23 kinda gives me the creeps. Perhaps you are kidding to make a point. You could turn your leaf blower on them. I hope they are some desperate folk from some other neighborhood but they could be our own children. Nobody is perfect.
Eliz May 28, 2011 at 12:16 AM
What if you don't kill them? They sue you. And they have freeeeeee legal council. And you have to defend yourself?
BB May 28, 2011 at 12:26 AM
We were told by a family friend who happens to be a policeman that if you are going to shoot - make sure the burglars are inside the house (not on the street or the yard), never shoot them in the back, and to make sure they are dead if you do shoot them. Anything less would potentially weaken your claim of self defense.
Eliz May 28, 2011 at 12:36 AM
I never ever want to shoot anyone. Not having a gun is a great contribution to that cause. However, I grew up in a home where we had a rifle and I knew how to use it if needed. I was taught to respect guns. I don't think that is how it is in the culture today. Perhaps we are once again the wild west.
Chris Nicholson May 28, 2011 at 01:32 AM
@Eliz: As you suspected, I was kidding about cleaning my Glock in the corner--- I never clean that thing. Austrian engineering is the best. I've cycled thousands of rounds through it with no problems whatsoever. And, at the kind of distances we're talking (inside a home) and hollow-point self defense ammo, there will be little chance of the perp giving a statement of his version of events. I don't have a Charles Bronsonesque "Death Wish" and I don't want to shoot anyone either. But if the need arose, I hope I would not hesitate to protect my family with deadly force. I think its funny how some people are so weirded out by guns. We'd all be safer if more people were responsible gun owners. I'm just doing my part.
Eliz May 28, 2011 at 04:15 AM
There are arguments for both sides of the gun issue. I don't disagree with you that gun owners should be responsible. Mostly thugs have guns and they are not responsible to the values I hold dear. I do wonder if you are jesting... It is okay. Do your part. I will pull weeds.
Jack May 28, 2011 at 01:22 PM
I would love to catch someone in the act. Kind of like winning the lottery. With a career in the Navy as a Corpsman I was only blessed with helping the sick and injured, but deep down inside I wondered what it would be like to be on the otherside of the gun. Lamorindins are being picked off. The police force needs to be beefed up. 5-10 min response time? That seems to me to be a vague number. 10 min in a robbery is forever. Get in your cars and drive 10mon through Lamorinda. See how far away you are from where you started. Nothing drives me even crazier then when I see 3 MPD cars sitting at 7-11. Maybe they are there trying to catch drivers on their cell phones. I never thought I would ever say this, but I will be glad to get out of this place. Not because of the people/schools/beautiful surroundings but because we are easy targets here. I know you burglars are reading this Patch, melting down the gold and taking it to pawn shops. Put down your 40oz. and hear this..."I will shoot you"
Judy Nielsen May 28, 2011 at 02:58 PM
TV, Wii, computer, jewelry (even sentimental) are THINGS. Human life is sacred, even thieves'. I believe that defending a life when confronted with the choice of shooting or being shot is another issue. I saw no mention of the thieves' having guns.
Kitty May 28, 2011 at 04:54 PM
I am home a lot during the day with my toddler and usually do not answer the door when it's not someone I know or expect. Now I'm wondering if that's the right thing to do. Definitely plan to start using the alarm more, but should probably get a once over as suggested above.
Peter Whitbeck May 28, 2011 at 09:32 PM
FYI, the murderers who killed the poor woman on Happy Valley and the magazine salesman/murderer who killed the elderly lady on Moraga Wy. didn't have guns either. I bet the victims wish they had though... Whether it makes others nervous or uncomfortable matters little to me -- I take responsibility for the safety and protection of my loved ones.
Chris Nicholson May 28, 2011 at 10:08 PM
Not jesting about owning guns or my willingness to use them for protection, if necessary (although the objective odds of that are super tiny). I own guns mainly because I think they are cool/fun. Also, I am very serious when I claim that we'd all be safer if more people owned guns. I would like burglars to fear death before robbing me or my neighbors. Isn't that a good thing?
bryan May 28, 2011 at 10:09 PM
Have to sail with Peter on this one. He is right on. If some of you choose not to defend your property or families that is your choice. If you come to my house looking to breakin you won't find it easy and it may just end up costing you your life.
Chris Nicholson May 28, 2011 at 10:14 PM
I don't think these bad guys are looking for confrontation, when easier pickings are just a few steps away. I think the trick is to not be the easiest or most appealing house on your street. It's kind of like being on a hike with friends when the hungry bear starts running toward your group......
theresa May 29, 2011 at 07:50 AM
following this article about home burglaries, did you really just advertise you're not home for the weekend, using your real name?
Michael Taylor May 29, 2011 at 04:21 PM
Hey flatlanders... It's Mike! Breakfast at Squaw this morning and the mountains are gorgeous with pockets of fresh pow for those who know where to find it. Great conditions and weather. To Teresa: I announced I was leaving for the mountains, yeh, but I didn't say I was leaving the pad UNGUARDED. What do you think I am, from Orinda? ;-) And just for info they are having a problem with home raiders up here to, mostly with unoccupied summer homes and stuff. Some the locals are talking about a necktie party, and I don't think that means black tie. Party hearty! Big Mike
Eliz May 31, 2011 at 12:13 AM
Mike, I have a home there too and it has been raided before. Took everything ...even the shampoo. 1986 Having an alarm is good. Knowing your neighbors is better.


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