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Surveillance cameras catch men stealing cars from repair shop, link suspects to other car thefts

Published: Apr. 11, 2022 at 10:19 PM CDT
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OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (KCTV) -- Surveillance video of thieves driving cars straight out of an auto shop in the middle of the night has helped police identify a man suspected in a string of auto thefts in multiple metro cities.

The owner of Burnett Automotive said the thieves broke the glass on the front door of his 148th and Metcalf location at about 2 a.m. on Friday, opened the bays from the inside, and drove off with a pickup and a Jeep.

“I’m super pissed off,” said shop owner Conrad Knipp

Burnett Automotive has been in business since 1967. They work on about 1,500 cars at week at their six metro locations. They’ve had catalytic converters taken but never entire cars. After the initial shock, he had to notify customers.

“Calling and saying, ‘Hey, we’ve had possession of your vehicle, and we’ve lost possession of that,’ that’s about the worst feeling you can have as a shop owner because, you know, we’re here to fix the cars and make them better not lose them,” said Knipp.

He has 16 cameras in each store. They captured 4K video of two men taking off with a silver 2004 Chevy Silverado, then a red Jeep Wrangler, backing them out one at a time through the bay doors. Knipp posted the video and still shots of one of the men on Stolen KC’s Facebook page and quickly got a name.

“The people running the Facebook site immediately named him. They knew him from way back when,” said Knipp.

“There are warrants out for his arrest, the person that we are looking at, and it’s just a matter of time,” said Officer John Lacy with the Overland Park Police Department.

One other thing Knipp’s cameras captured was a U-Haul pulling in. Turns out it was stolen from a home in Lee’s Summit from from a woman who was moving. The woman commented on Knipp’s Facebook post, then Lee’s Summit police contacted him about the video.

“They had loaded all their stuff and were leaving the next morning, came out and the U-Haul’s gone. Yeah. Can you imagine? That’s awful,” Knipp said of the woman’s ordeal.

Knipp’s video helped police locate the U-Haul near his shop by following a series of traffic cameras. Her things were gone, but police have gathered evidence.

“We did process that vehicle and obtained DNA, fingerprints, things of that sort,” said Lacy.

Police found the stolen Jeep Monday morning, damaged but able to be repaired at a body shop. They’re still looking for the pickup and the man they’ve identified.

After talking with Kansas City, Overland Park and Lee’s Summit police detectives and seeing them interact with each other, Knipp is confident they’ll get it done.

“They all know each other,” he remarked. “It’s pretty impressive how they work all together.”

Knipp said his customers have been understanding. Now he’s using this as a learning moment, working to evaluate how he can improve security beyond the cameras.