Persistent Vehicle Thief Caught Again – Set for Trial

By Matthew Torres

WOODLAND, CA – A man who was on probation for vehicle theft has been arrested again and is back in court again—for vehicle theft. Again.

A preliminary hearing in Yolo County Superior Court this week found Davis police officers testifying to the events that led to the arrest of Rusty Ray Johnson on the night of Dec. 23.

Davis police officers said they responded to a burglary call when an alarm went off at a local Chiles Road car dealership when they spotted a white Tahoe towing an empty car dolly in the back lot.

When officers observed the vehicle attempting to leave the lot, they blocked the SUV by parking in front of them, essentially detaining the occupants.

Officer Christopher Nasca approached the driver side while Officer Nick Burke approached the passenger.

Officer Nasca told the driver of the vehicle that the white SUV matched the description of a stolen vehicle and they were in the parking lot of a closed car dealership and were trespassing.

The officer claimed Johnson was “nervous and apprehensive” when asked to identify himself multiple times. And when the officer was made aware of Johnson’s probation status, Johnson and the passenger were detained.

Officer Burke, while speaking with the detained passenger, learned that the passenger was given methamphetamine earlier in the day by Johnson, along with the other events of that night.

Although Officer Burke was denied consent to search the vehicle by Johnson, the vehicle being reported stolen does not give Johnson authority to reject the search. Two meth pipes were found in clear view behind the front passenger seat.

In a secondary search a green canvas bag was retrieved containing three bags of what the officer believed to be methamphetamine that totaled 9.1 grams, and a strip of sorts that was wrapped in numerous paper bags that was believed to be LSD.

When asked why Officer Burke did not test either substance by Deputy District Attorney Aaron Rojas, he responded that “based on my training, experience, and talks with methamphetamine users, a large number of those users frequently report that methamphetamine as well as many other street drugs have been cut with fentanyl. So realistically, it’s not worth the inherent danger that comes with testing drugs that might be contaminated with fentanyl.”

The last officer to testify, Corporal Alex Torres of the Davis Police Department, performed follow-up, contacting U-Haul regarding the trailer attached to the SUV. Although the trailer had not been reported stolen, it had not been rented since it was last returned on December 21.

Following witness testimony, Deputy Public Defender Katie Rogers issued a motion to suppress evidence on the grounds officers did not have reasonable suspicion to detain the defendant.

Judge Timothy Fall denied the motion, noting, “This has more cause to detain and investigate than I can imagine I’ve ever seen.”

Johnson was bound over for trial, charged with receiving a stolen vehicle, theft/unauthorized use of a vehicle, grand theft, possession of controlled substance, possession/use of vehicle master key, and driving with a suspended license.

Johnson is scheduled for arraignment for trial setting Feb. 22.

About The Author

Matthew Torres is a fourth year Criminal Justice major at California State University, Sacramento expecting to graduate in Spring 2022. After graduation he will be continuing his studies in law school.

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