Man arrested for stealing firefighter's wallet, draining bank account, authorities in northern California say

SAN FRANCISCO -- Santa Cruz County Sheriff Jim Hart announced Thursday that a man has been arrested for the theft of a firefighter's wallet.

The suspect has been identified at 37-year-old Brian Johnson who Sheriff Hart says is from Santa Cruz.

The commander fighting the CZU Lightning Complex Fire had his department vehicle broken into, his wallet stolen and bank account drained, according to CAL FIRE officials.

CAL FIRE operations chief Mark Brunton said the theft happened while the crew member was taking care of business and directing firefighting crews.

Detectives say the theft happened in the overnight hours of Aug. 21 to 22 and the suspect proceeded to use one of the stolen credit cards at the Shell gas station and Safeway on 41st Avenue in Capitola.

CAL FIRE says there is no official GoFundMe set up for the firefighter who had his wallet stolen so if you see any GoFundMe claiming to help him, use caution.

Original story follows below.
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A commander fighting the CZU Lightning Complex Fire had his department vehicle broken into, his wallet stolen and bank account drained, according to CAL FIRE officials. Santa Cruz officials have released photos of the suspect.



A commander fighting the CZU Lightning Complex Fire had his department vehicle broken into, his wallet stolen and bank account drained, according to CAL FIRE officials.

During a press briefing Sunday morning, CAL FIRE operations chief Mark Brunton said the theft happened while the crew member was taking care of business and directing firefighting crews.

RELATED: Santa Cruz Co. family robbed of trailer with belongings after evacuating home during wildfire

The Santa Cruz County Sheriff's Office released photos of a suspect whom they believe stole the wallet from the firefighter's vehicle parked at the Bonny Doon Fire Station on Empire Grade Road while he was fighting the fire.

This image shows the suspect who officials believe stole a firefighter's wallet out of a vehicle parked at the Bonny Doon Fire Station in Santa Cruz, Calif. on Aug. 22, 2020.

This image shows the suspect who officials believe stole a firefighter's wallet out of a vehicle parked at the Bonny Doon Fire Station in Santa Cruz, Calif. on Aug. 22, 2020.

Santa Cruz County Sheriff's Office



Detectives say the theft happened in the overnight hours of Aug. 21 to 22 and the suspect proceeded to use one of the stolen credit cards at the Shell gas station and Safeway on 41st Avenue in Capitola.

The suspect is described as a white male with light-colored, shoulder-length hair, last seen wearing a green SF Giants hat, white and black checkered face mask, black t-shirt, light blue jeans and black vans style shoes.

Brunton said the extent to which people will go is "sickening" and said this is the last thing firefighters should have to deal with as they work to contain the hundreds of thousands of acres burning across the state under limited resources.

"It's saddening. It's sickening," Brunton said. "We are doing everything we can to try to help the community and unfortunately this happens."


Brunton reiterated the plea from officials that people evacuate the region. "Please again," he said. "If you're there, leave when asked to leave and let our folks get in there to do what they're doing."

WATCH: Officials give update on firefighter theft in Santa Cruz County

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'To me, it;s just mind-boggling that somebody would have the audacity to do something like that," said Santa Cruz County Sheriff Jim Hart during a press conference Sunday addressing theft that was targeted to a CAL FIRE firefighter.



"To me, it's just mind-boggling that somebody would have the audacity to do something like that," said Santa Cruz County Sheriff Jim Hart during a press briefing Sunday afternoon.

The robbery of a crew member comes after officials say they arrested five people on suspicion of looting from evacuated properties. "It's terrible and disgusting," Chief Deputy Chris Clark with the Santa Cruz County Sheriff's Office said on Friday. "These five decided to victimize several of our community members who are already hurting."

RELATED: CZU Lightning Complex Fire: Suspected Santa Cruz Co. looters ID'd, surveillance video shows theft


Authorities say there has been at least eight arrests, including the five identified with suspicion of looting and theft in Felton, Boulder Creek and Scotts Valley.

CAL FIRE says there is no official GoFundMe set up for the firefighter who had his wallet stolen so if you see any GoFundMe claiming to help him, use caution.

If you have any information, please call Detective Kenville at 831-359-8813.
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