A homeless man from Oakland was arrested at the Crossroads Shopping Center in Sonora after he was found to be in possession of a cargo van that was reported stolen Monday morning from a nonprofit organization in Berkeley.
David Stegman, executive director of Dorothy Day House, a Berkeley-based nonprofit that provides services to the homeless community, said that between midnight and 5 a.m. on Monday morning, a cargo van used to deliver food to emergency shelters in the area was stolen from a parking lot adjacent to the organization’s kitchen.
Stegman said someone broke into a kitchen and took the keys to the van.
Stegman was at a local coffee house in Berkeley Tuesday morning when he received a phone call from a young woman who was at the Starbucks in the Crossroads Shopping Center in Sonora.
Stegman was surprised to hear from the woman that his stolen cargo van, along with two suspicious occupants, was seen more 125 miles away in Sonora.
“She saw our van, which is heavily marked, and had a feeling that something was not right and went online to our website and got the number and called me,” Stegman said. “It all came from this one Sonora resident that did the right thing at the right time and all the circumstances went right. Just think of that. Incredible.”
The van is emblazoned with “Dorothy Day House” along the door and on the cargo structure above the truck bed. Along the truck bed is a quote from Dorothy Day, an American suffragette, radical social activist and philanthropic Catholic leader, that is at least partially obscured or washed off.
Sonora Police Sgt. Curtis Hankins said the woman reported the vehicle at 10:21 a.m. Tuesday after seeing a woman urinate near the vehicle in the bushes.
Hankins confirmed that the woman had called a number written on the cargo van and spoke to the owner, who confirmed it was stolen, before contacting the Sonora Police Department at his request.
A responding officer ran the license plate on the vehicle and confirmed it had been stolen out of Berkeley.
When the officer made contact with the man and woman in the vehicle, Hankins said the man would not admit to stealing it and said the woman was not involved in the incident.
A methamphetamine pipe was found inside the van, Hankins said.
Michael Brennan, 46, of Oakland, was booked into the Tuolumne County Jail on suspicion of felony possession of a stolen vehicle and misdemeanor possession of drug paraphernalia.
Stegman declined to comment on whether Brennan was familiar to the nonprofit organization.
Corrine Benavidez, 41, of Ceres, was cited and released from the scene on the misdemeanor charge of urinating in public.
Hankins said Benavidez was arrested again hours later outside of Safeway after she attempted to walk out of the grocery store with $500 worth of merchandise.
Benavidez had not yet been booked into the Tuolumne County Jail as of 5 p.m. Tuesday.
A jail representative said Benavidez was charged with misdemeanor shoplifting and would be cited and released.