Suspect held in thefts from Fresno County helitac base

The Fresno BeeFebruary 19, 2014 

A man suspected of burglarizing a U.S. Forest Service base in eastern Fresno County has been arrested, and now detectives are asking for the public's help in finding stolen gun parts.

The suspect, Stephen Bookwalter, 30, allegedly was involved in several burglaries since late last year at the helitac base on Maxon Road near Trimmer Springs Road, said Fresno County Sheriff's Office spokesman Chris Curtice. The investigation is continuing and there may be more arrests, he said.

In November 2013, Bookwalter allegedly stole more than $20,000 worth of property at the base, including several chainsaws and shop tools and equipment. Two days later, suspects struck again, stealing a television and new upper assemblies from 26 Ar-15 rifles, worth more than $23,000, Curtice said.

Detectives had no leads until January 2014, when suspects struck the base two more times -- vandalizing an employee's vehicle and stealing gasoline, and then stealing an employee's truck.

Two weeks ago, Forest Service employees spotted the stolen truck parked at a home while driving on the 12500 block of East Ashlan Avenue. Detectives searched the home and found several stolen items, including the truck.

Also recovered was stolen property from two recent commercial burglaries on East Shields Avenue. The property included three stolen motorcycles, shotgun, and a quad runner reported stolen in South Carolina last year.

Bookwalter was arrested at the home and booked into Fresno County Jail on four counts of commercial burglary, possession of stolen property, vehicle theft and being a felon in possession of a firearm.

Detectives are still trying to locate stolen rifle parts and are asking anyone with information to contact the Sheriff's Office at (559) 600-3111 or CrimeStoppers at (559) 498-STOP (7867).

The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6386, or @CarmenGeorge on Twitter.

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