An alert Border Patrol agent may have provided a major clue for detectives investigating the thefts of iPads and other computers from area schools over the last month.
Just before 3 a.m. Wednesday, three men in a black Lexus drove up to the Border Patrol checkpoint on I-15 near Temecula and were directed to a secondary-inspection area due to nervous behavior, said Border Patrol spokesman Jerome Conlin.
A drug-sniffing dog alerted the presence of drugs, and a search of the car turned up a trace amount of marijuana, Conlin said. A further search turned up 29 iPads that had bar codes from Del Mar Heights Elementary School. A laptop computer and a projector were also found in the trunk.
According to the Border Patrol, agents also found bolt cutters, a rubber mallet, flashlights and gloves.
The Border Patrol detained the three men and notified the San Diego Police Department about the discovery, said Lt. Andra Brown. Officers were sent to Del Mar Heights Elementary and confirmed that the school had been broken into, Brown said.
San Diego police officers traveled to the Temecula checkpoint and took the three suspects into custody, along with the computers and the Lexus. Brown said police arrested three men from Riverside County: Eyon Zimmerman, 19; Thomas Earl Burleson, 20; and Trevor Williams, 21.
Reports of school burglaries targeting iPads and laptops began in late December, with Cardiff Elementary broken into on Dec. 30. Since then at least five other similar cases have been reported in North County, with the latest in Valley Center last weekend.
Sheriff’s detectives have questioned the three suspects to determine if they are involved in other school burglaries, said Sgt. Clayton Lisk.
The suspects were booked into San Diego Central Jail on several felonies, including second-degree burglary and participating in a gang felony. Bail for all three was set at $100,000.