Mark Caminiti says he let his guard down in the year since a rash of high-profile bike thefts hit Moab, but the Poison Spider Bicycles employee is back on high alert.
Caminiti and his co-worker Aaron Lindberg recently caught an alleged bike thief red-handed when the man reportedly tried to steal two high-end used bikes, which originally had a combined retail value of $12,400.
Prosecutors have since charged that man – 39-year-old Christopher Montes of Rowland Heights, California – with second-degree felony theft and third-degree felony aggravated assault, along with misdemeanor charges of possession or use of a controlled substance and drug paraphernalia.
The aggravated assault charge stems from allegations that Montes tried to run Lindberg down with his vehicle, forcing him to jump onto the car.
The incident occurred just after 11 a.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 20 – a busy but otherwise uneventful day at Poison Spider Bicycles.
As 50 or so customers milled around the shop, Caminiti said, a man in a matte-black Honda pulled his car up to the red “no parking” zone in front of the shop. According to a police report on the incident, the man walked briskly toward the sale rack in front of the building.
Caminiti remembers that he saw the car parked out there for at least five minutes. But he didn’t think anything of it, he said, because customers often park there for short periods of time, and he noticed that another bicycle was already latched onto the car’s rack.
Minutes later, Caminiti said he just happened to look out the window, and allegedly saw the man stealing the second of two bikes.
“He would have gotten away from our shop if he’d taken one,” Caminiti said.
A cable lock secured the bikes in place, but authorities allege that Montes used bolt cutters to remove the bikes, which originally had retail prices of $5,500 and $6,900, respectively.
When Caminiti saw what was happening, he rushed out of the shop and confronted the man, who was seconds away from getting ready to drive off.
“It happened so fast,” Lindberg said. “Mark was like, ‘What does he think he’s doing?’”
When Caminiti questioned him, the man whom police identified as Montes reportedly said, “(The bikes) are just sitting there – why not take them?”
As the suspect allegedly began to verbally threaten him, Caminiti grabbed one bike from the car’s rack and threw it onto the ground, yelling “bike thief!”
In response, Lindberg and another Poison Spider employee rushed out of the store, where they witnessed Caminiti scuffling with the suspect.
“I was trying to fight with him to stop him,” Caminiti said.
But Caminiti said he had to jump out of the way as the driver accelerated his vehicle.
Lindberg, meanwhile, stood in the car’s way as Montes allegedly sped off. As Montes’ vehicle allegedly rushed toward him, Lindberg said he had no choice but to “run up the car.”
“I just jumped up on top because there was nowhere else to go,” he said.
Lindberg ended up on the hood of the car, rolling over the top and then onto the trunk, as Montes allegedly continued to drive about 30 to 40 yards.
However, when the driver accelerated and made what Caminiti called a “crazy 180” degree turn on Main Street, Lindberg was thrown off the vehicle, landing on his side and sustaining a minor knee injury when he hit the asphalt.
“I just got banged up a little bit, but I’m fine,” Lindberg said.
Fortunately, Caminiti said, the incident occurred during a pause in traffic along a busy stretch of Main Street.
“No one actually drove through there that whole time,” he said.
As the driver sped north on Main Street, the employees called 911 to report the incident.
Police were already on their way to the bike shop when the reporting officer received a call that a Utah Highway Patrol trooper pulled over a vehicle that matched the description on U.S. Highway 191 north of Moab.
The trooper who initiated the traffic stop alleged that the suspect was driving 87 miles per hour in a 65 mile-per-hour zone. During a search of the vehicle, the trooper allegedly found marijuana and a pipe that is commonly used to smoke methamphetamine.
When the trooper sent a photo of the car to officers on scene at the bike shop, the employees confirmed that it was the vehicle in question. Authorities then transported Montes to Poison Spider, and employees identified the man in custody as the alleged bicycle thief.
Montes reportedly said that he did not cut the cable, and told police that Lindberg “jumped on his car.” He asked if he could go back and apologize, according to the report on the incident.
On his way to the police station, Montes said that he was a “bike enthusiast” and that he had enough money to pay for the bikes.
If he wanted them, he said, he would “just buy them,” according to the report. However, although Montes had $1,150 cash in his pocket, he had no wallet and no credit cards, or any other means to pay for the bikes, police reported.
The reporting officer alleged that police found a set of bolt cutters in the back of Montes’ car. Montes asked them why were keeping the bolt cutters, at which point police told him they were seizing them as evidence and arresting him on related charges.
For Caminiti, the incident brought some year-old memories back to life.
A string of local bike thefts came to the public’s attention in late September 2015, when Moab Cyclery manager Jacques Hadler tackled one of three suspected bike thieves down the street from his house and held him to the ground until police arrived.
Caminiti said he remembers that he felt a heightened sense of security at the time. But as the year went by, he said he grew lax about the thought of bike thefts.
“You don’t expect guys in broad daylight to brazenly cut cables and take (bikes),” he said.
The latest incident, he said, should serve as a reminder to residents and visitors alike.
“People should be a lot more careful with their bikes on their racks,” he said.
Poison Spider Bicycles owner Scott Newton, who was helping someone at the other end of the property when the incident occurred, said he’s still “blown away” by the “pretty crazy story.”
“You don’t really think of something like that happening in a small town like this,” he said.
Newton thanked the Moab City Police Department for its response, and he praised Lindberg and Caminiti for acting on their feet.
Above all else, though, he feels a sense of relief that neither man was hurt, adding that they could have been killed when the suspect allegedly made a sharp U-turn and sped north of town.
“They were acting on adrenaline,” he said. “They saw something happen and they wanted to stop it.”
Montes’ preliminary hearing in 7th District Court is scheduled to be held on Tuesday, Nov. 1. He remains in custody at the Emery County Jail, which is currently holding Grand County’s inmates as construction crews renovate the local jail.
Under the law, he is presumed to be innocent unless or until he is formally convicted in court.
California man charged with felony theft, aggravated assault
You don’t really think of something like that happening in a small town like this.