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Local man blows whistle on bandits stealing from fire victims

Local man blows whistle on bandits stealing from fire victim

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - Police hunted for the group of criminals responsible for stealing from Black Forest Fire victims Tuesday.

Police recovered the stolen items from a unit at American Storage on Vincent Drive in Colorado Springs.

The company's manager kept a close eye on the bandits for weeks. Nicholas Aulich felt something wasn't right the moment his new renter walked in the door.

"I've been doing this for a while. You kind of get a sense for people," said Aulich. "When you originally meet someone you kind of know that there is a weird vibe. That's what I got from them."

A Colorado Springs woman rented the unit in late June. Aulich followed the news closely during the Black Forest Fire and remembered hearing reports of home break-ins. He thought the timing of her rental was suspicious.

She would visit the unit alone or bring a partner. They would stop-by late at night.

"I happened to be up and notice they were here a few times. From there, that really tipped me off," said Aulich.

Aulich checks the locks on each unit daily. He noticed Monday the unit's lock had been cut. He called police to report a possible burglary.

Police got a search warrant and opened up the storage unit. They found items Black Forest Fire victims reported stolen. Police have not released any information about exactly what was recovered. Police confirmed a suitcase was found with a fire victim's name on the luggage tag.

"There is still a lot of investigation that needs to be done in these types of cases. Though it feels good to a point, there is still a lot of investigation that needs to be done and it's not done yet," said Sgt. Mark Chacon at the storage unit Monday night.

"I'm just glad we could help them, help them get their items back," said Aulich. Anyone that attempts anything like this is pretty low on the human (totem) pole. You can't really justify anything that these people did."

The unit was not full when police opened it.

"It almost seems like they were bound to do more... it was probably half of what should have been in there as far as space. I'm not sure how much stuff was originally in there," said Aulich. "But, it wasn't that full, about halfway."

Aulich made a copy of the woman's drivers license when she signed up for the unit. He said she lived in the area. He turned over the information to police.

Police did not make any arrests in the case. Police haven't released the number of people they think are involved in this case.

The bandits could face criminal trespassing charges if they stole the items from the victims' cars. They'll face burglary charges if they took items from evacuated homes.


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