Police: Wire thieves hit Merced grocery store

FRESNO, Calif.

Now police are searching for two people accused of stealing nearly a half million dollars worth of copper wire.

The theft happened at the old Save Mart store on Main Street near R Street in Merced.

Officers arrested Allen Suther near the scene, but say two other suspects got away.

Black casings scattered across the old grocery store remind John Solga of the thieves who gutted his building of copper wire.

"I am totally disgusted, this is violation to me," Solga said.

Solga feels violated because he actually stumbled on the crooks as they were stealing the metal.

"It's bad enough they are doing lights and lampposts and all this stuff, we know that, now you are attacking building," Solga said.

He and a contractor called police after they saw the suspects cutting copper on Friday afternoon.

"Basically they were stripping wires," Solga said.

But before police arrived and blocked off the building two of the men escaped in a mini-van through this loading dock.

"The van took off and almost ran over my contractor," Solga recounted.

But police say one suspect didn't get away.

"The third person who ended up getting caught later was operating the roll up door so the van could pull out," Craig McKeeman of the Merced Police Department said.

They have now arrested 40-year-old Allen Suther of Fresno.

McKeeman says the two others took off with about $300 thousand to $400 thousand of stolen wire.

Investigators say they left behind power tools that will now be used as evidence. But the empty store's owner is now worried about how he'll pay for the repairs.

"I can't afford it, no I can't afford it anymore it's too much," Solga said.

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