Salt Lake City man accused of stealing an excavator and 'randomly digging up the ground' in a parking lot is in police custody

·2-min read
Evcavator and dump truck in Miramar, Florida, USA.
A man is accused of stealing construction machinery and digging up a grocery store parking lot.Getty Images
  • A Utah man is accused of stealing construction machinery and digging up a parking lot.

  • He faces felony theft and felony criminal mischief charges.

  • The suspect's motive is unclear.

A man in Salt Lake City, Utah, was accused of stealing a running excavation vehicle from an active construction site and digging up parts of a parking lot.

The 46-year-old suspect, Omar Ortega, faces felony theft and felony criminal mischief charges and has been booked at the Salt Lake County Metro Jail, according to a Salt Lake inmate search.

The Salt Lake Police Department said in a press release that construction workers called the authorities around noon on Saturday and followed the suspect as he drove nearly a mile down the road in the oversized vehicle. The construction crew had apparently left the machine running when the suspect took it.

While the standard excavator weighs between seven and 45 metric tons, the weight of the stolen machinery is unclear.

The suspect was found "randomly digging up the ground" in a parking lot at Smith's grocery store at 828 South 900 West, per the press release. The release added that community members at the grocery store helped stop the suspect from leaving before police arrived.

"This was very unusual," SLCPD spokesman Brent Weisberg told local outlet KUTV. "We're fortunate that there were no crashes, no one was injured. Once the person got to the parking lot and was just kind of swinging the front loader around, a lot of community members called 911 wondering what was going on here."

Fixing the damage will cost at least $40,500, KUTV reported.

It's unclear what sparked the theft and destruction.

 

Salt Lake City Police Department declined to provide additional details. The Utah Attorney General did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment.

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