October 7, 2022

Just stop digging! Utah man, 46, has been arrested ‘after he stole excavator from construction site and then ripped open supermarket parking lot by shredding water pipes and fiber optic cables’

  • Omar Ortega, 46, was booked on charges of theft and criminal mischief
  • He stole an excavator abandoned by a construction site before driving to a Smith supermarket a mile away
  • He was then “randomly excavating the ground” in the store’s parking lot, creating a huge and muddy ditch
  • Emergency services inspected the total amount of damage, believed to be more than $40,000, and ruled out a gas leak

A man in Utah was arrested Saturday for stealing an excavator from a construction site before driving it to a nearby grocery store and tearing up his parking lot, ripping water pipes and fiber optic cables.

Omar Ortega, 46, was taken to the Salt Lake County Metro Jail on charges of theft and felony after the incident happened around noon.

His motive for stealing the machines and driving to a Smith supermarket at 828 South 900 West remains unclear.

Footage shared by the Salt Lake Police Department shows a huge and muddy trench being dug in the supermarket’s parking lot.

The damaged Ortega is valued at $40,000 so far — and the cost could be even higher.

Officers said Ortega dug so far that he leaked a water pipe and tore several relatively new fiber optic cables. Utilities inspected the damage and also checked for a gas leak, which was later ruled out.

The suspect dug so deep that he damaged water pipes and fiber optic cables that were relatively new

The suspect jumped into the backhoe and used it freely while police said he was abandoned by a construction site at 900 South 300 West – a mile from the supermarket.

Builders followed Ortega to the grocery store and saw the destruction of the parking lot, where the suspect was “randomly excavating the ground” before calling 911.

Witnesses then prevented the suspect from fleeing until the arrival of the police.

It remains unclear whether the police were called when the machines were initially stolen. A police statement suggested the incident was not reported until Ortega began digging in the supermarket’s parking lot.

No injuries or deaths were reported.

The total amount of damage to the Smith’s supermarket parking lot is estimated to be more than $40,000

Ortega’s motive for the incident remains unclear, but witnesses prevent him from leaving the construction site until police arrive

The bail for Ortega is set at $1,000. It is not clear whether the suspect is still in jail on Sunday.

He is originally from Mexico and has been arrested several times by the police, including for assault in 2021.

Ortega has previously been charged with driving a vehicle without insurance, failing to register or expire vehicle registration, and disobeying traffic control equipment from 2019 to now.

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