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An attempt at stealing barrels of propane cooking and heating gas from a highwayside travel center early Christmas Eve, Saturday, December 24, failed when La Salle County sheriff’s deputies intercepted suspects in the case and charged them with theft.
According to officers investigating the case, a night clerk at the Exxon Max-E-Mart convenience store reported shortly after 4 a.m. Saturday that he had heard a loud metallic crash and ran out of the store to see a red Chevrolet pickup truck pulling away from the storage locker where the propane barrels were kept for retail sale.
Deputies dispatched to the scene noted that the storage locker had been damaged and that thieves had cut the padlock on the metal gate.
The sheriff’s office has confirmed that Deputies Hector Rodriguez and Richard Gonzales were patrolling Main Street in downtown Cotulla when they effected the traffic stop of a vehicle matching the description provided by the clerk.
“Within minutes of the crime, a vehicle had been stopped, and at least five barrels of propane were found in the truck bed and cab,” Sheriff’s Lt. Homar Olivarez said of the case. “The barrels were of the same brand and style as those that had been stolen from the travel center.”
At the wheel of the truck, Juan Xavier Cruz, 39, was questioned and denied involvement in the crime. His passenger has been identified as 41-year-old Saturnino Garcia. Both are Cotulla residents.
“Both suspects repeatedly denied having anything to do with the theft, but they were in possession of the propane tanks, and they also had the tools, the cutters of a type used to break the lock,” Lt. Olivarez said.
Cruz was then found in possession of crystal methamphetamine.
The vehicle in which Cruz and Garcia were traveling is registered to Roberto Garza Martinez, also of Cotulla.
Both suspects were taken into custody on Class B misdemeanor charges. Cruz faces an additional charge for narcotics possession.