FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) -Two local business owners are teaming up to find the person responsible for stealing their equipment.
Red Rok BBQ owner Santino Zurzolo told NewsChannel 15 that just before 5 a.m. July 24., someone took down a fence in the rear of the restaurant at 2701 W. Jefferson Blvd. and hooked his electric smoker to pickup truck and drove off with the apparatus.
Red Rok’s wood-fired smoker was taken in the same way, by what appeared on surveillance camera to be the same truck. Zurzolo said the second smoker was stolen between 5 a.m and 6 a.m.
Other surveillance images from a New Haven’s MulchWorx, which is located at 4430 E Washington Blvd., reportedly showed a similar truck there towing away a log splitter.
Owner of MulchWorx, Gary Morrical said someone broke into his property around 2:15 a.m. on July 18. Morrical said the gate is typically locked after hours. The security guard noticed the gate was open and the lock and chain was missing around 4 a.m.
The business owners did not know each other prior to the incidents. However, they both posted on Facebook asking for the public’s help identifying the thieves.
“Facebook is direct communication,” said Zurzulo. “That’s been a huge help to us. We’ve got lots of information and multiple pictures of that vehicle.”
Possibly the biggest lead came from the owner of the mulch company. Morrical said when he saw the post on Red Rok’s Facebook page, he decided to send Zurzolo a message.
“I said, ‘do you guys have any pictures or video of the truck that took your stuff?’ Our stuff was taken in a similar manner,” said Morrical.
The two exchanged pictures of surveillance video. The truck appears to be an older model, light-colored pickup. Morrical and Zurzolo believe the truck in question is a F-150 with an extended cab from the late 80’s.They believe the same person is responsible for both thefts.
“If it’s not the same guy, they’ve got trucks that are identical,” said Morrical.
Zurzolo said the theft of the restaurant’s two smokers was debilitating.
“Those smokers are everything to us, and the fact that they got both of them, just hinders us that much more,” he said.
Both owners are offering rewards for returning the equipment. In a Facebook post, the restaurant offered to “fill your pockets with cash if you can help” find the suspect in the thefts.
A post on MulchWorx Facebook page said, “I am offering $250 for return of the log splitter. $1000 if you bring me the log splitter and one of these guys. $2000 if you bring me the log splitter and both of these guys.”
“My motivation for finding the people who did it is not necessarily because I want the log splitter back,” said Morrical. “We just don’t want those kind of people around our city.”
Zurzolo told NewsChannel 15 that while he waits for a development in the case, the restaurant has borrowed a replacement smoker from the company it bought the previous smokers from. The rental will allow Red Rok to stay open, he said.
“You know, it put us down but it won’t stop us,” said Zurzolo.
Police have not said if these two incidents are connected. If you know anything about either of the thefts, contact police.