A Republic man believed to be responsible for a series of thefts from multiple Walmart locations is behind bars in the Texas County Jail after Houston police arrested him in the wee hours of Thursday morning.
Houston Police Chief Jim McNiell said Friday that Cpl. David Kidwell arrested Jason M.T. Brekken, 26, who was charged Thursday afternoon with three felonies and two misdemeanors.
The path to Brekken’s arrest began when a Walmart representative contacted McNiell on the afternoon of Aug. 25 to report that a major theft had occurred between 2 and 3:30 a.m. the previous day in which an unidentified man had gotten away with about $2,500 worth of electronics and other items. The suspect reportedly left the store by forcing his way through a locked sliding door into the lawn and garden section and then using bolt cutters to snip a large hole in the chain link fence surrounding the section.
McNiell said the man – later determined to be Brekken – then put the stolen goods into his car and fastened the fence back together using aluminum ties.
“We knew we had a large theft, and we knew we were dealing with someone who seemed to know something about the internal operations of Walmart,” McNiell said. “He was even able to remove some of the ‘spider web’ alarm equipment off of some of the laptops and other things he stole without activating an alarm.
“But we expected that having tied the fence up, he might be coming back.”
On Thursday afternoon, McNiell studied surveillance video showing the suspect and determined he bore a distinct resemblance to a man in a photograph received from the West Plains Walmart who was suspected in two significant thefts July 17 and 31.
“I could tell it was the same guy,” McNiell said. “Everything about him was similar – the same black shirt the same shorts, a phone in his ear, everything.”
Brekken’s spree unraveled when he did return to the Houston Walmart early Thursday. McNiell said that at about 3:20 a.m., Cpl. David Kidwell observed a car parked at Teem Tire on Holder Drive that he knew was normally not there at that time of day. Kidwell felt the hood of the car – a pewter 1992 Honda Civic – and noticed it was warm, indicating it hadn’t been there long.
After making sure the tire store was secure, Kidwell walked to the nearby garden section at Walmart and observed a man inside the fenced area. He then called the Texas County Sheriff’s Department to ask an officer to call and verify with Walmart management whether anybody should have been there at the time.
After being told that nobody should, Kidwell made contact with the man. At that point, the suspect – Brekken – stated he was an employee of his father’s fence repair company and was fixing the damaged fence.
“As officer Kidwell was still talking to him, he fled back into the store, went past the cash registers, and exited through the front door,” McNiell said.
When he exited, Brekken ran into a sheriff’s department deputy who had just arrived as a result of Kidwell’s call.
“Officer Kidwell knew he had the right guy, because he had a picture of him and a picture of his car from previous surveillance video, and it all matched up,” McNiell said.
McNiell said Brekken later confessed to both thefts at the Houston Walmart, as well as the July incidents in West Plains. Investigation revealed that Brekken is a former employee of a Walmart in Springfield.
“I think he kind of had an idea of how things worked at Walmart,” McNiell said. “But I also think he realized that at that time of the morning he knew there wasn’t as much traffic in the store. He was pretty smart about what he was doing, but he definitely made an error because he came back where we thought he would.”
In addition to stolen goods, a smoking device was found in Brekken’s car that had residue in it that checked positive for methamphetamine.
Brekken is charged with felonies of stealing more than $500 but less than $25,000, possession of burglary tools and possession of a controlled substance, as well as misdemeanors of property damage and unlawful use of drug paraphernalia. McNiell said he expects West Plains police to also file multiple charges against Brekken, and that information about him has been sent to other law enforcement agencies around the state to see if he matches the description of suspects in unsolved thefts in other communities.
“This is a prime example of some darn good police work by an officer who works the graveyard shift and is out on the streets and very attentive to what he’s doing,” McNiell said. “A car didn’t appear to be where it should be, and that triggered it all. Through his experience, Cpl. Kidwell was able to get this guy arrested and get him to admit to committing all these crimes.”
McNiell said Brekken has history of selling items at a Springfield pawn shop as many as 115 times. He is in the Texas County Jail on $250,000 bond.