Three men dressed like masked ninjas, prowling and peeping into back windows, startled residents in the gated community of large homes in Via Cerioni off Sunset Avenue, west of Westberry Boulevard, on Wednesday.
Police public information officer, Sgt. Mark Trukki, said the men were seen clearly on surveillance video cameras. They were dressed in black hooded sweatshirts and wearing face masks, crawling on back patios on their hands and knees, peering into doors and windows to determine which residents were home and who were not.
An elderly woman who was home at the time saw the men looking into her windows and called her neighbor, who confronted the men with a gun, causing them to flee.
“It was apparent they were looking for an unoccupied home, jumping fences from one backyard to another, peering through the back windows in broad daylight,” said Trukki. “Officers arrested one man, Thomas Jackson, 41, near the scene and he was charged with prowling, a misdemeanor. He was cited and released. They found the other two men in the immediate area after setting up a perimeter.”
Lane Phillips, 26, originally of Madera, was arrested for having a felony grand theft warrant, and records show he has three previous arrests for probation violations in Madera. Khalil Walker, 19, was also arrested on a probation violation and for falsely identifying himself to a police officer.
Trukki said it was believed the men were all currently from Fresno, but one or more of the men may have ties to Madera, and any information on their local activities and associates could greatly assist detectives.
“No car was found or seen in the area, so there may have been more people involved that day, Trukki said. “We are asking for the public’s help. If anyone has seen a suspicious vehicle in this area or knows anything else about this incident, please reach out to us. This is an ongoing investigation; if you have any information regarding this incident, please contact Detective Sauceda at 675-4244.
Area residents who saw the surveillance video on local news said they were alarmed by what they saw.
“This is pretty much your worst nightmare,” said one. “Three guys dressed in black — crawling around, lurking around your backdoors in daylight. Who knows what they could do ... It’s beyond creepy.”
Police say surveillance systems help solve crimes, but most burglaries occur in daylight hours when most people are at work or away. They credited an alert neighborhood and the community with helping apprehend these three would be burglars.
A neighborhood watch is a very important part of crime prevention, officers say, and is instrumental in assisting police in reducing the level of crime in the community.
If you are not already a part of a neighborhood watch program and have interest in developing one in your neighborhood please contact Lacy Burleson at 675-4290.