Riverside, CA – Santa Claus tackled an alleged car thief to the ground while one of his elves held a second suspect at gunpoint during an undercover operation last week (video below).
The situation unfolded on Dec. 10, as the Riverside Police Department (RPD) Property Crimes Unit and School Resource Office Unit were conducting a holiday enforcement program targeting retail theft at one of the city’s busiest shopping areas, the department said in a video release.
While detectives and officers worked with loss prevention specialists to conduct video surveillance from inside the Canyon Springs Target store, a second group of detectives and officers waited outside the business to apprehend any alleged theft suspects who were leaving the store, the RPD said.
Santa and one of his elves were among the group of police working outside as part of the “Santa’s Intervention” operation, according to the department.
“As the suspects exited the store with merchandise they just stole, Santa and his elf were waiting to take them into custody for the theft,” the RPD explained.
But as the operation was coming to an end, detectives were tipped off about three suspects who seemed to be “casing vehicles” in the parking lots of the shopping area, according to police.
An undercover detective spotted the three men as they were actively stealing a white Honda CR-V, police said.
Two of the suspects noticed the detective and took off running, only to be chased down by Santa and his elf.
While the elf held one suspect at gunpoint, Santa tackled the combative accomplice to the ground, video footage showed.
“Get ‘em, Santa!” someone yelled out.
The third suspect managed to speed away with the stolen vehicle, which was later found abandoned.
Police said they have identified the car thief, and that they will be arresting him in short order.
One of the three suspects was arrested for resisting arrest and possession of illegal drugs, and the other suspect they apprehended was identified and released, according to the RPD.
The teams arrested three other individuals earlier in the day as part of the “Santa’s Intervention” operation.
One woman was arrested for misdemeanor theft after she brazenly walked out the front door of the store with a cartload of stolen merchandise, according to the RPD.
She was also allegedly in possession of illegal narcotics at the time.
A second individual was arrested for possession of illegal narcotics and trespassing, after the “habitual thief” had been previously told to stay away from the business, the RPD said.
Police also arrested 55-year-old Patrick Seilsopour, who allegedly “stole expensive Lego toy sets totaling $1,000,” according to the department.
Santa and his elf arrested Seilsopour on a grand theft charge as he left the Target store.
Investigators said Seilsopour is also believed to have committed similar thefts at other Target locations in the region.
RPD Property Crimes Unit Detective Everth Bercain said lenient theft laws have contributed to a rise in shoplifting cases in recent years.
“Theft of merchandise totaling less than $950 is only a misdemeanor, and any arrest made whether it’s a felony or misdemeanor, results in little to no consequences for these crimes,” Det. Bercain noted.
Watch the incident unfold in the video below: