BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) – In the course of their investigation into the grand theft auto/carjacking incident on March 19 that resulted in the death of Victoria Hampton, Bakersfield police also looked into stolen-car crimes in Southern California in the weeks around the time of the shooting.
It’s likely BPD investigators were looking for similarities between the L.A.-area GTA cases and the Hampton murder, in terms of technique, possible identity of the suspects, and targeted vehicles.
Arrested in the Hampton case were four suspects — 19-year-old David Tyrone Thompson, of Bellflower; 18-year-old Adam Ransom, of Lynwood; 23-year-old Joseph Bush, of Anaheim; and 19-year-old Giovanni Garcia, of Long Beach.
Police already were familiar with Bush. A month after Hampton’s shooting, he’d allegedly stolen a Jeep Grand Cherokee in Buena Park and led police there on an extended chase that reached 100 mph on surface streets. After a foot chase he was arrested and charged with receiving a stolen vehicle and evading arrest.
Bakersfield police also were interested in learning more about the theft of a red 2021 Hellcat from a residence in the Los Angeles County city of Lakewood on March 13 and the May 26 theft of a new Hellcat from the lot of a Dodge dealership in Cerritos.
And Mo Hosseini, director of operations for a group of Bakersfield car dealerships, told The Bakersfield Californian on Sept. 2 that a Dodge Challenger Demon with about 5,000 miles on the odometer was stolen from one of his dealerships in January. Thieves broke windows and damaged a Dodge Challenger parked in front of the Demon by shoving it out of the way.
The thieves clearly knew what they were doing, Hosseini told The Californian, because it took them such a short time to pull off the heist.
Hellcat theft is no less prevalent elsewhere in the U.S.
A multi-state police task force recovered 132 stolen vehicles allegedly connected to a theft ring based out of Charlotte, the Charlotte Mecklenburg (N.C.) Police Department announced in late August.
“We started to see a trend of high-value auto thefts occurring at dealerships, apartment complexes, different spots in the city,” Bret Balamucki, a lieutenant with the Charlotte police, told WCNC.
A majority of vehicles stolen in the crime spree were Dodge Chargers and Challengers, according to police.
The car thefts are believed to be connected to possible homicides, vehicle fatalities, drive-by shootings, armed robberies and other property crimes. 50 different law enforcement agencies across 11 states participated in the task force’s work.
In Texas, Houston police were looking for a man accused of stealing baseball legend Reggie Jackson’s Dodge Hellcat in downtown Houston in August. Jackson announced a reward for the return of his customized 2022 Dodge Charger Hellcat. “I can throw in some playoff tickets,” Jackson said. The suspect is alleged to have used Jackson’s Hellcat in the commission of other auto thefts, including the theft of a 2017 Dodge Hellcat from a Dodge dealership.