Utah man, 46, is arrested for stealing excavator and tearing nearby grocery store parking lot apart

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Utah man, 46, is arrested for stealing excavator and tearing nearby grocery store parking lot apart

A man in Utah was arrested on Saturday for stealing an excavator from a building site before driving it to a supermarket nearby and tearing up its par

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A man in Utah was arrested on Saturday for stealing an excavator from a building site before driving it to a supermarket nearby and tearing up its parking lot apart, ripping water pipes and fiber optic cables. 

Omar Ortega, 46, was booked into the Salt Lake County Metro Jail on charges of felony theft and felony criminal mischief after the incident took place around noon.

His motive for stealing the machinery and driving to a Smith grocery store on 828 South 900 West remain unclear. 

Footage shared by Salt Lake Police shows a massive and muddy trench dug in the grocery store’s parking lot. 

The damaged Ortega is so-far estimated to run to $40,000 – and costs could climb higher.  

Officers said Ortega dug so far in that he made a water pipe leak and tore up several relatively new fiber optics utility lines. Utility works inspected the damage while also checking whether there was a gas leak, which was later ruled out.

Omar Ortega, 46, stole an excavator that was left running during the day on Saturday and drove it for a mile to a grocery store's parking lot before starting to 'randomly digging up the ground'

Omar Ortega, 46, stole an excavator that was left running during the day on Saturday and drove it for a mile to a grocery store's parking lot before starting to 'randomly digging up the ground'

Omar Ortega, 46, stole an excavator that was left running during the day on Saturday and drove it for a mile to a grocery store’s parking lot before starting to ‘randomly digging up the ground’

The suspect dug so deeply that it caused damage to water pipes and fiber optic cables that were relatively brand new

The suspect dug so deeply that it caused damage to water pipes and fiber optic cables that were relatively brand new

The suspect dug so deeply that it caused damage to water pipes and fiber optic cables that were relatively brand new

The suspect hopped inside the excavator and freely used it while it was left running by a construction site at 900 South 300 West – a mile away from the supermarket – according to police. 

Builders followed Ortega to the grocery store and observed the destruction of its parking lot, where the suspect was ‘randomly digging up the ground’ before calling 911.

Witnesses then prevented the suspect from fleeing until the arrival of police.

It remains unclear if calls to police were made when the machinery was initially stolen. A statement released by police suggested that the incident hadn’t been reported until Ortega started digging into the grocery store’s parking lot. 

No injuries or deaths were reported.

The total amount of damage done to the Smith's grocery store's parking lost is estimated to be more than $40,000

The total amount of damage done to the Smith's grocery store's parking lost is estimated to be more than $40,000

The total amount of damage done to the Smith’s grocery store’s parking lost is estimated to be more than $40,000

Ortega's motive for the incident remains unclear but witnesses prevent him from leaving the construction site until police arrived

Ortega's motive for the incident remains unclear but witnesses prevent him from leaving the construction site until police arrived

Ortega’s motive for the incident remains unclear but witnesses prevent him from leaving the construction site until police arrived

Bail for Ortega has been set at $1,000. It’s unclear if the suspect is still in jail as of Sunday. 

He is originally from Mexico and has been arrested by police on several occasions, including for assault in 2021. 

Ortega has previously been charged with operating a vehicle without an insurance, failure to register or expired vehicle registration and failing to obey traffic control devices from 2019 until now. 

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