That got me thinking...maybe this guy was still in the tree line, possibly even up in a tree. So, I went back to the dealership and my cruiser, where I consulted my sergeant and we decided to deploy a thermal imager (our SOP specifies a supervisor's approval to use a TI). I went back into the tree line, scanning up and down the trees. After almost ten minutes of scanning the 25-foot by 90-foot area, I was beginning to think that this guy had won. I wasn't seeing anything on the TI. Just then, I noticed an odd warm spot near the base of a tree. I shined my flashlight on it, and lo and behold, I saw the brown boot that I had desperately clung to for what seemed an eternity! Attached to it was our suspect, pretending that we still had not found him.
Moments later, the man was in handcuffs and being escorted to the wagon for transport. The trees were so dense that we never would have found the guy with flashlights...his dark clothing, the poor lighting, dense foliage and all the shadows from the trees made it the perfect hiding spot for him. The dog had come close, but for some reason lost the track. If it wasn't for the TI, the bad guy would have eventually sulked away.
Instead, not only did we help prevent the theft of the SUV (and all of the mechanics' tools loaded therein), but we also caught the guy who committed the burglary.
So, long story short? The thermal imager helps the good guys win.
And in case you're wondering, the suspect claimed he had just fallen asleep there after eating at a nearby fast food place. He denied being in the dealership, despite wearing the same clothing and being covered in mud from his trip through the drainage ditch. His charges included burglary, two counts of assault on a police officer, fleeing police, resisting arrest and unauthorized use of a vehicle.
The reclaimed property was valued at almost $36,000.