By Ryan Lewallen, County 17
As Gillette police ramp up their investigation into a trio of pickups stolen and found abandoned Monday, one group of residents have decided to take the investigation into their own hands.
The pickups were all taken from residences in and around Gillette sometime between May 21 and May 24, according to reports from the Gillette Police Department (GPD).
One, a 2005 Dodge Ram taken from a business on Lakeway Road, was found running and abandoned on Redrock Road by Campbell County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) deputies; its ignition had been tampered with to allow ignition using a screwdriver, per Undersheriff Quentin Reynolds.
Another, a 2002 Ford F-150 stolen from apartments on Express Drive, was likewise abandoned and recovered on Grandview Drive.
The third, a white 2002 Ford F-250 taken from a residence near Foothills Boulevard, was found near Lakeway Road and Cedar Street. Like the Dodge Ram, the F-250 had its ignition tampered with. Unlike the others, however, the pickup’s dash had been ransacked with the suspects removing the stereo and a set of speakers from the back seat, according to GPD Lt. Kelly Alger.
A picture of the 2002 Ford F-250 stolen from the area of Foothills Boulevard. (Photo credit: Tyrel Martinson)
Gillette police have started investigating the incident to identify and apprehend the suspects responsible and have put together a pretty strong case, Alger said May 26.
But friends and family of Kameron Martinson, the owner of the F-250 stolen from Foothills, feel Gillette police efforts are not enough to bring the culprits to justice and don’t feel the police are prioritizing the case as they should be.
“That pickup is my brother’s pride and joy,” Tyrel Martinson, Kameron’s brother, said in a recent County 17 interview. “He practically lives out of that thing.”
The detective who checked out the F-250 didn’t seem like he cared and was just doing his job, according to Rhett Beard, Kameron’s roommate, told County 17 May 25.
Beard, along with Tyrel and Kameron’s sister-in-law Savannah Martinson, expressed frustration for what they see as a slow-moving investigation and have decided to look into the issue themselves.
“The police, they acted like they couldn’t care less, that’s why we’re doing this,” Savanna said May 25, adding that an owner of one of the other stolen pickups urged them to investigate themselves if they really want to find out who was responsible.
As of Tuesday, their investigation has turned up surveillance footage from the Kum & Go on Highway 14-16 and Foothills Boulevard that shows Kameron’s truck turning south followed by one of the other stolen pickups.
The surveillance footage, according to the group, shows that there are at least two suspects responsible for the thefts. They further deduced that it had to be multiple suspects because Kameron’s pickup, a loud and large vehicle, was stolen from outside his residence while he and Beard were home with the windows open.
They had to have pushed it away before starting it, Beard speculated, otherwise we would have heard them taking it.
The group planned on gathering other surveillance footage later that day that could help them identify who stole the pickups.
On May 26, Tyrel messaged County 17 to report that their efforts had turned up information that could identify the suspect vehicle, though he didn’t specify what that information was as of press time.
But regardless of whether the group is able to turn up possible suspects in the case, their actions could have some adverse effects on the police investigation, according to Alger, who expressed frustration and confusion at the news that the group was not satisfied with the police response and had taken it upon themselves to look into the case.
The detective assigned to the case, from the moment he got the call to the moment he went home, ran all over Gillette pulling surveillance footage and processing evidence, Alger said, adding that a low priority case wouldn’t have garnered the same investigative response that this one did.
The GPD has solid evidence and, given how fluid the case is, it makes more sense to get moving quickly with what we have, Alger said.