“One thousand percent sure.”
That’s the answer a witness gave to Brownwood police detective Robert Lee when the witness identified the alleged burglar of the McDonald’s restaurant on Christmas Night.
That answer is among the details in a police report about the break-in and small fire, and the arrest later that night of Jerry Herrera, 23, of Comanche.
Herrera remained in the Brown County Jail Monday on charges of arson, burglary of a building and manufacture or delivery of a controlled substance, jail records state. Herrera’s bonds total $30,000.
Police arrested Herrera after the witness said he saw Herrera enter and exit the restaurant. Another key factor in the arrest: Lee, who was working security for Walmart, saw Herrera walk by after the break-in and began speaking with him because Herrera “did not appear to be a normal pedestrian,” Assistant Brownwood Police Chief James Fuller said.
Walmart had contracted with the Brownwood Police Department to provide holiday security, and Lee was outside the closed store watching the parking lot that night, Fuller said.
Nothing was taken in the break-in, Fuller said. Police allege that Herrera set a small fire in the office to try to “get rid of evidence,” Fuller said.
According to a police report and statements from Fuller:
Water flow alarm
Police were dispatched to McDonald’s at 6:46 p.m. in reference to a possible burglary. Brownwood firefighters responded to a water flow alarm, and police arrived to see that the restaurant was filled with smoke. A car was parked outside the restaurant and the man who later identified Herrera as the alleged burglar stood next to the car.
Fuller said the man was there using wifi.
A firefighter said a door was unlocked and firefighters were unsure if the building was secure. An officer entered the restaurant to determine if anyone was inside and saw what what appeared to be cash register drawers on the floor behind the counter.
Several appliances had been turned on. The officer opened the door to a room that was filled with smoke and could not determine if anyone was in the room. Firefighters used a thermal device to determine no one was in the room.
Statements from witness
The witness gave police a description of the man he saw enter the restaurant. The man entered through a door without using any force and said it appeared the door was unlocked.
The man turned on a television in the restaurant, but the witness could not see anything else the man did. The man came outside after several minutes and walked away.
Lee then radioed that he was speaking with a man outside Walmart who might have been involved in the burglary. The man matched the description provided by the witness.
Lee saw the man, later identified as Herrera, walking in the Walmart parking lot. “The subject’s suspicious behavior while walking in the parking lot first got (Lee’s) attention,” Fuller said via text message.
“He kept looking around from left to right and turning to check for people following him. He did not appear to be a normal pedestrian.”
Lee began speaking with the man, and he and another officer drove the man to McDonald’s.
Footprints on the restaurant’s floor appeared to match Herrera’s shoes. Herrera denied ever being inside the restaurant, saying he’d walked near the business, slipped on an unknown substance and continued walking.
Lee told another officer that Herrera had several different stories about why he was in the area.
Witness identifies Herrera
Police drove the witness past Herrera, who did not hesitate in identifying Herrera as the man who’d walked into the building.
Lee asked the witness “how sure he was, and (the witness) stated that he was 1,000 percent sure,” a police report states.
McDonald’s representatives’ statements
A McDonald’s employee told police he had closed the business on Christmas Eve and had locked the doors.
The employee “was unable to provide me with an answer to how Herrera got inside the business,” a police report states.
After firefighters extinguished that had allegedly been set inside a room, an officer saw a pile of clothes under a countertop. “It appeared someone had piled several items including plastic jackets, bank bags, paper, etc. and burned the items,” a police report states.
The restaurant’s general manager said the room was where surveillance equipment was located.