Dallas, TX – Two Dallas County Sheriff’s Office (DCSO) deputies have been arrested following accusations that they looted the tornado-ravaged Home Depot store they were tasked with guarding.
"[The tip] actually came from the Home Depot corporate office, who contacted us and said we had an employee who was possibly involved in some thefts," Dallas County Sheriff's Office spokesperson Raul Reyna told KXAS.
According to the DCSO, Sergeant Rebecca Evans, 41, and Deputy Joseph Bobadilla, 25, were hired as off-duty security guards in the wake of Oct. 20’s EF-3 tornado, which collapsed a portion of the Home Depot store on Forest Lane, KDFW reported.
The deputy and sergeant allegedly stole items from the store while they were working, then returned them at another Home Depot location for in-store credit.
According to an arrest affidavit, Deputy Bobadilla showed up in full uniform at least twice to make such returns, KXAS reported.
The unopened merchandise was still wet, and some of the packages were stamped with an identification code linking them to the damaged store on Forest Lane.
According to investigators, Deputy Bobadilla used the store credit to purchase large appliances from the secondary store location.
Deputy Bobadilla was arrested on Thursday morning, and Sgt. Evans was arrested later the same afternoon, KXAS reported.
Both have been charged with felony theft of property and have been released on bond, according to KDFW.
As Deputy Bobadilla was being questioned by investigators on Thursday, his fellow law enforcement officers were executing a search warrant at his residence.
“I can’t believe he did that. I can’t believe it. It's still shocking,” his neighbor, Monique Scott, told KDFW. “They’re bringing out evidence – a lot of it…When they pulled up, it was like 15, 16, maybe 17 Dallas sheriff trucks, then I saw unmarked cars, then I saw them go into the yard over there. I thought it was a raid or something.”
Police were seen hauling boxes of large appliances out of the deputy’s home, which were allegedly purchased using store credit from the stolen Home Depot merchandise, KDFW reported.
"The sheriff's department is not going to tolerate anybody involved in breaking the law, so he is going to be held accountable for his actions," Reyna told KXAS.
Home Depot officials said that the duo “appropriated” a total of $2,398.75 in stolen property, KXAS reported.
Another $535.10 worth of merchandise has not been recovered.
"The Dallas Sheriff's Office does not condone or support employees that break the law,” Dallas County Sheriff Marian Brown said in a statement to KXAS. “Our core values are integrity, professionalism and accountability and as a result, we will follow the proper procedures and guidelines in place to uphold the law and ensure the deputy is held responsible for his actions.”
Deputy Bobadilla joined the DCSO as a deputy in October 2016, and was assigned to the traffic division at the time of the alleged thefts. He worked as a DCSO civilian jailer for over two years prior to that.
Sgt. Evans has been with the DCSO for the past 16 years, KDFW reported.
Both deputies are subject to termination, pending the outcome of an internal affairs investigation.
Because their alleged offenses occurred inside a disaster area, they also face enhanced penalties that could land them in prison for up to 10 years, KXAS reported.
“It’s surprising and it’s kind of alarming,” Deputy Bobadilla’s neighbor, Brenda Gallardo, told KDFW. “They’re supposed to be protecting us, but they’re instead doing the opposite – stealing from things that just got destroyed.”