This white car was found burning under the Agassiz-Rosedale bridge

Crime spree nets suspect … and an alligator

A Popkum resident has been charged in connection with a day-long crime spree earlier this month that had police in Agassiz and Chilliwack following a trail that included one woman's emergency 911 call, one vehicle burning under the Agassiz/Rosedale bridge, one dust-up with a Chilliwack car dealer, one startled shopper in the Chilliwack Safeway parking lot - and one alligator.

A Popkum resident has been charged in connection with a day-long crime spree earlier this month that had police in Agassiz and Chilliwack following a trail that included one woman’s emergency 911 call, one vehicle burning under the Agassiz/Rosedale bridge, one dust-up with a Chilliwack car dealer, one startled shopper in the Chilliwack Safeway parking lot – and one alligator.

“They knew it was the same person linking them all,” RCMP Const. Tracy Wolbeck said, about the trail of crimes police were tracking.

But the challenge was assessing all the information coming rapid-fire into two RCMP jurisdictions, and catching the suspect before his next crime.

The spree began at about 5 a.m. on Feb. 11 when police responded to a 911 call from a woman on Bernston Road in Popkum.

“While Agassiz police were clearing the residence, they discovered a small (marijuana) grow-op in the basement and an “exotic pet” that was later caught by animal control officers.

Wolbeck could not disclose the nature of the 911 call. The “exotic pet” was an alligator.

About 45 minutes later, at 5:45 a.m. police responded to a robbery at the Tempo gas station on Hocking Avenue in Chilliwack where a male had taken off on foot with an undisclosed amount of money.

At 11:52 a.m. a man entered the Valu Auto Sales Sales on Young Road asked to test drive a vehicle.

When the salesman refused, the suspect grabbed the keys and took off in the vehicle, which was later found burning under the Agassiz/Rosedale bridge.

But it appears the suspect had earlier tried to switch vehicles, trying to steal a pickup truck in the Chilliwack Safeway parking lot on Young Road at about 1:04 p.m.

“As the owner of the truck approached the vehicle, she saw a man sitting in the vehicle,” Wolbeck said.

But after a “small altercation” with the woman, the man fled in the vehicle stolen from the dealership.

Finally, at 2:30 p.m., Agassiz RCMP responded to a theft of vehicle complaint at Hwy 9 and Yale Road East. The stolen vehicle was found on Popkum Road.

“A short distance away police found Bradley Vangeel walking and noticed he fit the description of several other crimes which took place earlier in the day in Popkum and Chilliwack, Wolbeck said.

He is also the occupant of the house where the woman’s 911 call was made, and where the grow-op and alligator were discovered.

Vangeel, 27, is charged with robbery, theft over $5,000 and possession of stolen property. Further charges are pending.

Wolbeck said the spree was brought to a “peaceful end” with the collaborative work of police officers in the RCMP’s crime reduction unit, serious crimes unit, forensic identification unity, and general duty officers from Agassiz and Chilliwack.

“There were complicated files, and thankfully (it) was brought to a peaceful end before anyone was seriously hurt,” she said.

Police are looking for two witnesses who may have important information about some of the events that day, a man named “Dave” who saw the suspect on Hwy 9 between the Agassiz/Rosedale bridge and the roundabout at about 2:15 p.m., and another witness who was in the gas station at the time of the robbery.

Anyone else with information is asked to call the Chilliwack RCMP at 604-792-4611 or the Agassiz RCMP at 604-796-2211. Tips can also be called in to Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS.