MONROE — For an alleged teen burglar, police said the suspect they eventually arrested and charged with 70 criminal counts earlier this week was “pretty sophisticated.”
He wore a mask, a pair of gloves; and was careful to hit mostly rural businesses, they said.
“You also have to be pretty quick,” said Police Chief Fred Kelley.
But in the end, it was his own mask that did him in, Kelley said. An acquaintance recognized the masked man in an image on social media and tipped off police, leading to the arrest this week of Zackary M. Steele, 17, of Monroe for an extensive burglary spree. A juvenile accomplice also has been identified by police.
“In the end, you’d want to be careful that the mask you are wearing is not distinctive, or that you brag to others,” said Kelley.
Beyond the stolen property, the ordeal could have been dangerous, as among the items allegedly taken by the teen was an AR-15 assault rifle.
“From then on, you have to maybe assume,” the suspect is armed, said Kelley, adding that the long gun and ammunition have since been recovered.
The suspect was not believed to be armed as he committed the crime.
In total, the pair allegedly robbed more than a dozen area businesses, including an antique store and an automobile repair business, police said. Some of the businesses were in the Brodhead area, while most of them were in rural Green County.
They were careful to select businesses in out-of-the way locations and to strike when no one was around.
Calling them “crimes of opportunity” they would take just about anything, Kelley said, including chain saws and power tools — anything with potential value. Police aren’t sure exactly how much all of the stolen items were worth but speculate it is easily many thousands in property.
The suspects were caught on video in at least one location, Kelley said.
While the investigation here is about wrapped up, Kelley said detectives suspect that Steele may have been involved in burglaries south of the state line in Illinois and in other Wisconsin counties.
Steele is slated to appear in court again on the charges on Dec. 13 before Circuit Judge Thomas J. Vale.