Selma police call it a brazen theft. Thieves steal hundreds of gallons of fuel, using a U-Haul and trailer, then, they lead police on a chase down Highway 99, ultimately ending in Visalia. Authorities have three people in custody in connection to the theft. And police say they are trying to figure out if more people are involved.
A late night patrol officer noticed a U-Haul and some men pumping gas into storage containers early Tuesday morning. He thought that was suspicious and when the officer approached the men; the U-Haul took off. Investigators aren't sure what they were going to do with it. But they had no intention of giving up easy.
The front tires of the U-Haul were blown out after CHP used spikes to stop the truck. Police say 29-year-old Joseph Staton and 26-year-old Barry King of Tulare. Both were booked in Fresno County Jail.
"With today's technology, helicopters things of that nature just don't seem to me like a very well thought out plan," Sgt. Rudy Alcaraz from the Selma Police Department said.
The suspects were hauling a trailer with large containers, partly filled with gas stolen from a transportation facility ran by the Selma Unified School District.
"I've never heard of a theft of that magnitude from one location especially a school yard. Typically they're going to be rest stops where truckers go and stay the evening and refuel large quantities of fuel," Alcaraz said.
Larry Teixeira is with the Selma School District and says they share the fueling station with the city and police department so the gates are never locked. But each gas pump requires a key to start fueling.
"It appears right now that someone had a key to turn the pumps on we're investigating whether any of our keys are missing. We don't believe so, so yes, we'll be investigating how to secure our pumps a little better," Teixeria said.
Police recovered about a hundred gallons of fuel, but the school district says they are still missing nearly 500 gallons.
"The one theory right now is that there was another vehicle there before the one that was caught and they got away with about 500 gallons," Texeria said.
On Wednesday, authorities caught a third suspect in Tulare County. He was driving a truck spotted at the fueling station Tuesday morning. Investigators did not find any missing fuel in his truck and they have not released his identity.
The school district says the fuel stolen is mostly diesel all the fuel is covered by their insurance, so the impact to the district should be minimal.
If you have any information in this case, you're asked to call Selma Police or CHP immediately.