POMARIA — Four Columbia men were arrested Tuesday in connection with a lawn maintenance/landscaping equipment theft ring after a Newberry County deputy patrolling S.C. 34 spotted a suspicious vehicle and attempted to stop it, resulting in a high-speed chase and then a manhunt.
“Although suspects are in custody, citizens should remain vigilant in maintaining this type of equipment. These theft rings are widespread and highly organized,” Newberry County Sheriff Lee Foster said. “We have a responsibility as law enforcement officers, to work proactively, with the residents of Newberry County, to keep this community safe from any and all crime. We especially work hard to combat property crime and this type of criminal activity in our community.”
Those arrested were Albert Ray Boyd Sr., 51, of 308 Penbrose Drive in Columbia; Quentin Eugene Pendleton, 37, of 8401 Bluff Road in Columbia; Brion Trivell Thomas, 24, of 5718 ½ Colonial Drive in Columbia; and Nicholas Theodore Whitener, 29, of 9004 Wilson Boulevard in Columbia. They were taken to the Newberry County Detention Center and jailed pending a bond hearing.
According to Foster, Deputy Michael Claytor was on patrol on S.C. 34 around 3:09 a.m. Tuesday when he saw a red Chevrolet pick-up truck near Piester Road that looked suspicious.
Claytor’s attempt to stop the vehicle became a high speed chase that ended when the truck turned onto Plantation Acres Drive and encountered a cul-de-sac.
Three of the men were apprehended by Sgt. Rusty Farmer as they attempted to flee but one man escaped on foot in the area of Piester Road.
The NCSO’s investigations unit and the Air Tracking and Bloodhound Tracking Unit of the S.C. Law Enforcement Division responded to help in the search. Officers conducted vehicle checks in the area as the man was tracked.
The Bloodhound Tracking Unit located him under an old farmhouse on Piester Road around 7:46 a.m.
Pomaria resident Barney Piester was among residents thankful for the ongoing investigation and law enforcement presence.
“I heard it on the monitor when I first woke and went out to check on my farm and let law enforcement in the gates,” Piester said. “It worries me about all these people riding up and down the roads with trailers (and lawn mowers on them).”
Investigators are continuing to work to tie recent cases of similar thefts together with information and forensic evidence.
Foster said the men are believed to be associated with other thefts of lawn equipment, ATVs and similar equipment in the area.
“It is our intent to eliminate Newberry County as a consideration for this type of the criminal enterprise and to show that we are not a haven for thievery of any kind. We take it very personal,” Foster said. “It takes an entire community to make this happen. We take that responsibility seriously in partnering with the community and it is our aim to seek out those who continue to oppose that standard.”