By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily
Cheyenne resident Jon Puls is no stranger to crime. This past December marks the fourth time in three years he’s had property stolen from his home.
But this theft was different. Puls had video of the crime. So he was hopeful that this time, he might not only get his property back, but the perpetrator would be caught.
But even after sharing the video evidence with the Cheyenne Police Department, the suspect in the theft remains free, leaving Puls frustrated and without hope that he will ever see his stolen property again.
The U.S. Army veteran told Cowboy State Daily on Wednesday that after his trailer carrying two riding lawnmowers and a variety of other equipment was stolen in late December, he went searching for video cam footage in hopes of getting his property back.
He found a video at a mechanic’s shop three doors down from his residence. Not only did it show a red Jeep Cherokee which had a sun-damaged hood driving with Puls’ trailer, but it showed the theft from three different angles.
Puls said he shared the footage with the police immediately and then called local scrapyards to see if anything had been turned in.
In the meantime, Puls posted the video on a variety of social media channels. That’s when things started happening — fast, he said.
Facebook, in particular, blew up. Puls said he had more than 125 shares on his first post to a Cheyenne news group.
He started getting reports from a variety of people — friends, acquaintances, and people he never met — about the identity of the suspect.
He said the prior owner of the Jeep Cherokee contacted him with information on who owned the vehicle now.
Everything was promising until he got a call back from a scrapyard. His equipment had been brought in, but had already been processed — meaning it had been crushed and sent away to be turned into usable metal.
Then Marv’s Place Pawn Shop called him. The sun-damaged red Cherokee featured in the video on Puls’ Facebook page was parked in the alley behind the shop in downtown Cheyenne.
“We Got Him”
“As I was heading there, the cops called me and said ‘we got him,’” Puls said. “They told me to come identify my trailer. But unfortunately, the trailer that he was using wasn’t mine.”
The cops let the suspect go, Puls said.
“The police called me Tuesday night to me know they were working on my case,” he said.
Puls said the police called him again on Wednesday morning to say they were writing up felony charges.
Alexandra Farkas, public information officer for the Cheyenne Police Department, said the suspect was not arrested because officers didn’t have “enough probable cause to immediately make an arrest.”
“The case has been forwarded to the CPD Detective Bureau and charging documents will be submitted to the District Attorney,” she said.
In the meantime, Puls is still getting “bombarded” with information about the suspect.
“Every 5 to 10 minutes someone will message me telling me [the suspect] was at the gas station, or ‘I just saw him here,’ and ‘I just saw him there,’” Puls said.
He said he is grateful that the police are on the case but is “certain” that without his publicizing the theft on social media, it wouldn’t have received any attention.
“The reach on social media is ridiculous,” Puls said. “My post caused the awareness for people to understand that this guy was doing this. My social media post is the reason the cops found the guy.”
Although the suspect has yet to be charged, Puls said he’s hoping that will happen. He would also like to have at least some of his stuff returned.
“I would like to get my trailer back,” he said. “I want to see this guy pay for what he did. I mean honestly, I would like to see him go to jail for stealing peoples’ things. I would like to see it public.”
“Crime Is Out Of Control
Further, Puls wants the community to be aware of just how bad crime is getting in Cheyenne.
Former Police Chief Brian Kozak — who is running for Laramie County Sheriff — agrees with Puls. Crime is growing and “it’s a free-for-all,” Kozak said.
“Jon Puls is absolutely right,” Kozak told Cowboy State Daily. “Crime is out of control.”
Kozak said that in the year that he’s been away from the Cheyenne Police Department, both property crime and auto theft have doubled.
“Compare auto theft, for example, with rates in major cities like Chicago and Los Angeles,” he said. “Our rate, per capita, is higher than these cities and with many major cities.”
“I saw Jon Puls’ video. He’s pretty hot about the theft and he should be,” Kozak said. “Sounds like he is aware that the crime rate in Cheyenne is high. I think people in the community are starting to realize it, for sure.”
Jail Is Shut Down
Kozak blames the spike in crime on a decision not to detain those who commit property crimes or drug crimes in the Laramie County Jail from March 2020 to November of 2021.
The decision was made because of concerns over COVID.
“As a result, supervision for probation and parole also stopped. So word spread quickly among the criminal element that it was a free-for-all in Laramie County,” Kozak said.
The Cheyenne Police Department would not comment on the spike in crime.
Kozak said Laramie County was the only county in Wyoming which decided to not accept some prisoners at its jail.
The problem isn’t solved yet, Kozak said. Although the jail is open, the police have been instructed not to focus on the apprehension of people who are the subjects of outstanding warrants.
“When the police encounters people with warrants, they are taken in,” he said. “But they aren’t going out on a warrant apprehension detail to get all of these criminals off the street.”
Jail “Open For Business”
Kozak said that’s again due to Covid concerns but added if he is elected Laramie County Sheriff, the “jail will be open for business.”
“That’s my platform,” he said. “I will open the jails, keep the jail open, and take criminals in.”
That solution would appear to satisfy Puls.
“People say the jail is full because we have Covid,” Puls said. “Well, you know what? Find a way around it. Fix the problem. You don’t just close it down.”
In the meantime, Puls is erecting a six-foot metal fence around his property.
“My hope has gone out the window for my stolen property,” he said. “It’s not the first incident. It’s happened many times in the past. I’m sick of it.”