Fireworks Stand Thefts on the Rise

July 3, 2009 12:10:31 AM PDT
A series of fireworks stand thefts are taking some of the sparkle off the 4th of July holiday for a few Valley charities.Nearly all of the fireworks stands you see around town are run by charities and crooks know the stands are vulnerable. They can just knock off a lock and steal whatever is left inside.

In the South Valley this week, police say one man pulled off one of the boldest robberies they've seen. The shelves are full at the fireworks stand on Lemoore Avenue near Hanford-Armona in Lemoore, but the "Big Bang", the "Big Timer" and the "Block Party" were briefly in the hands of a robber. Colby Reddell was working alone Tuesday afternoon when the robbery happened.

"So, I look down and he's holding a rifle underneath the counter, pointing at me," he said. "I, uh, it was kind of scary. I kind of froze up. So, he's like, 'You better hurry, otherwise I'm going to shoot you.'"

Lemoore Police say 52-year-old Allan O'Bryant made off with more than $1,000 worth of fireworks and a cash box containing about $1,000.

Officers caught O'Bryant and recovered the fireworks, but the cash was already gone. The robbery could mean no summer trip for about 12 kids in a Boy Scout-type organization called the Pathfinders. And they're not the only charity to get hit this week. Someone broke into a storage container at Clovis and Dakota and stole $4,000 worth of fireworks and equipment for a Clark Intermediate School fundraiser.

"This door was open and absolutely everything was gone," said Clark Intermediate teacher Matt Berry. "They cleaned out our fireworks, our tables, our chairs, our extension cords and fans. They took it all."

A new shipment replaced Clark's stolen merchandise, but in both cases, the charities will now be lucky to break even on their fireworks sales.

Police say they patrol the stands at night, but the charities need to protect themselves as well.

"Make several (cash) drops," said Clovis Police Corporal Vince Weibert. "Take the money to the bank and get it out of there so you don't make yourself a tempting target."

Reddell never thought he'd be a target, but he's left with the memory of being the bull's-eye.

"I was cooking toast and the toaster went off and I just about came out of my skin," he said. "When it really happens to you, you're like, 'Wow! People really are that mean and horrible.'"

Clovis police also report at least one fireworks stand theft in the last day, at Peach and Gettysburg.

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