Friday, January 27, 2012

"My Worst Fear Has Been Realized" - Hundreds of Stolen Guns on the Streets

Special Agent Gary Orchowski
“First and foremost, we’re here to protect the public,” declared ATF Acting Special Agent in Charge Gary Orchowski during a Crime Stoppers press conference on Thursday. “We don’t want to see violent crime increase in the greater metropolitan area of Houston as a result of stolen guns on the street.”

Agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives joined Crime Stoppers and investigators from various local law enforcement agencies on Thursday to shed light on a professional ring of burglars targeting Houston area businesses.

The businesses: gun stores. The loot: hundreds of firearms. The fear: more guns on the street.

Over the last six weeks, a series of burglaries at area gun stores and pawn shops has caught the attention of the ATF and numerous other law enforcement agencies.  Investigators believe that eight of the burglaries may be related.  In total, 274 firearms are reported to have been stolen in related burglaries.  Investigators described the group responsible as professional, systematic, and organized.

“This case has the support of multiple agencies, and is an example of the type of interagency cooperation I’m proud of,” said Lieutenant Jeff Strauber of the Harris County Sheriff’s Office. In a quip targeted at the offenders in these cases, Strauber noted, “For the people responsible, let it be a sign that it’s only a matter of time before this team catches you.”

Multiple Burglary Locations
The burglaries have resulted in the theft of well over two hundred firearms from local businesses.  Notably, throughout the course of the investigation, only one firearm has been recovered.  “On average, 50% of stolen weapons are recovered within 25 miles of the burglary,” described Special Agent Orchowski, who went on to note that Texas ranks third among other states in gun theft. 

“The goal is to get all [burglary crews] shut down, and off the streets,” said Lt. Strauber when asked about his outlook on the case.  “My worst fear has already been realized; these guns are on the street."

Crime Stoppers is offering up to $5,000 in a cash reward for information that leads to the filing of felony charges or the arrest of a subject in this case.  “The beauty of it,” concluded Lt. Strauber, “is that you can call Crime Stoppers at 713-222-TIPS, and remain completely anonymous.” 

Surveillance video of one recent burglary is located at: 

Citizens are urged to call Crime Stoppers with any information about the identity of the suspects in these cases.  All callers remain anonymous. 

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Still No Leads in Shooting Death of Gelareh Bagherzadeh

Gelareh Bagherzadeh
More than a week has passed since the shooting death of Gelareh Bagherzadeh, an Iranian student living in Houston.  Since the time of her death, public outcry for answers has rung throughout Houston and the nation. However police report that there are still few leads to account for this tragic murder.

Bagherzadeh’s body was found inside of her car in the early morning hours of Monday, January 16, 2012.  The car had careened into a garage near her Galleria town home after she sustained a fatal gunshot wound.

Officer J.C. Padilla HPD
"When the officer arrived, the car's tires were still spinning," Officer J.C. Padilla said at a Crime Stoppers press conference. "He [the responding officer] had to reach in and turn off the motor." 

The murder of Bagherzadeh has left the community and investigators puzzled, and seeking answers.  “This is probably one of our most difficult cases at this time,” stated Padilla, “we’re not ruling anything out."

Now, following the murder of Bagherzadeh, Crime Stoppers is continuing to seek information from the community to aide in the search for answers.  “If your information leads the filing of felony charges or the arrest of a suspect, you will be eligible for up to $5,000 in a cash reward,” stated Katherine Cabaniss, Executive Director of Crime Stoppers. 

Ali Bagherzadeh, Gelareh’s brother, spoke out at a press conference hosted at Crime Stoppers’ headquarters. "My family is devastated," stated Ali Bagherzadeh on behalf of his grieving family. "It's very hard. I can't see my parents ... I don't want to see any parents be in this situation."

Gelareh Bagherzadeh was described as an invaluable member of the Houston community by her family and friends.  Working as a molecular geneticist at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, Bagherzadeh had a bright future in her field.  “She taught me never to forget about people,” added her youngest brother.

Bagherzadeh’s family pled with the public to share information on the case at the Crime Stoppers press conference.  “Anyone who may know, any information can help. Please call Crime Stoppers,” appealed a somber Ali Bagherzadeh.

A week after Bagherzadeh’s death, Crime Stoppers is echoing that plea to the public.  Callers to the 24 hour Crime Stoppers tip line at 713-222-TIPS (8477) remain anonymous and are eligible for up to $5,000 dollars in a cash reward.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

A Voice for Lamount Lastie

Officer H.A. Chavez HPD
In the early morning hours of Friday, October 14, 2011, Lamount Lastie was at home in his apartment, when two unknown suspects took his life.  Crime Stoppers was joined by investigators from the Houston Police Department’s Homicide Division, as well as Lastie’s family members, Tuesday for a press conference.  There, the public was urged to call Crime Stoppers with any information that could be used to help solve the case.

“Mr. Lastie can no longer speak for himself,” stated Officer Heraclio Chavez of the Houston Police Department. “That’s why we’re here today, to speak for him, and solve his murder.”  

Chavez described the incident which took place at an apartment building located on the 9800 block of Meadowglen Ln. in Houston.  At approximately 1:05 AM on Friday morning, neighbors reported hearing loud banging noises coming from outside Lamount Lastie’s apartment, followed by multiple gunshots.  Sometime after the gunshots, a resident of the same complex was walking past Mr. Lastie’s apartment.  After noticing the door ajar, the resident discovered Lastie lying on the floor motionless.  Mr. Lastie was pronounced dead at the scene after the arrival of Houston Police and Fire Personnel. 

“A witness reported seeing two black males running from the direction of the apartment building.” Chavez confirmed.

Lastie’s mother Myra Ford described her son as a hardworking, beloved father of two that would not have brought violence upon himself.  “He was loved by all his friends and family,” described Ford during her emotional plea to the public. “He was the biggest Texans football fan, and I know he would have loved seeing that playoff game.”

Ford urged citizens to call Crime Stoppers and bring closure to the case, and comfort to her family. “Next time it could be your son, daughter, grandchild or any other member of your family.  Please bring this person to justice.”

In her closing remarks, Crime Stoppers Executive Director Katherine Cabaniss reminded citizens that a call to Crime Stoppers is anonymous and safe. “Your identity will be anonymous, protected, and if your information leads to an arrest or the filing of felony charges you will be eligible for up to a $5,000 cash reward,” stated Cabaniss.

Anyone with information on the murder of Lamount Lastie is urged to call Crime Stoppers at 713-222-TIPS.