Suspect arrested in Nevada City for theft of firefighter equipment |

Suspect arrested in Nevada City for theft of firefighter equipment

Ronnie Ray Custer

Forest Service personnel didn’t have far to go when it came to locating thousands of dollars of firefighting equipment stolen from their Coyote Street compound.

Much of the stolen property was located in a campsite on Sugarloaf Mountain and the site’s occupant — Ronnie Ray Custer, 50 — was arrested, authorities said.

A Nevada City police officer responded to the Tahoe National Forest supervisor’s office Monday morning for a report of a vehicle break-in. The firefighter’s truck had been locked and parked in a fenced area. But a thief broke into locked toolboxes in the bed of the truck and stole about $10,000 in equipment, including handheld radios, clothing, sleeping gear, fire shelters, compasses and a Garmin GPS, as well as credit cards, Sgt. Sean Mason said.

Forest service personnel walked up Sugarloaf, checking transient camps in the area to ask for information, Mason said.

They came across a camp where the victim was able to identify some of the stolen property “in plain sight,” Mason said. They subsequently obtained a search warrant for the campsite, and found more items stolen from the truck.

Early Tuesday, after receiving information the camp’s occupant had returned, Nevada City police arrested Custer without incident.

Custer was booked into the Nevada County Jail on suspicion of second-degree burglary, grand theft and possession of stolen property, as well as on a misdemeanor warrant for camping illegally. He remained in custody Tuesday on a $51,000 bond.

To contact Staff Writer Liz Kellar, email or call 530-477-4236.

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