Three men who may have thought their catalytic converter thefts went undetected were arrested in the parking lot of a Bloomington hotel.

The area has had a rash of catalytic converter thefts in recent weeks, and alert employees of Hilton Garden Inn led police to three St. Paul men who appeared to be responsible for several thefts.

Police officers were dispatched to the Hilton, 1601 E. American Blvd., at approximately 2:35 a.m. March 9. A hotel employee reported hearing what sounded like drilling on the south side of the building and saw a black vehicle leaving the property. That same black vehicle had also been spotted by a hotel shuttle driver, according to Bloomington Police Cmdr. Kevin Herman.

The shuttle driver, knowing that a catalytic converter had been reported stolen from a parked vehicle the previous day, noted the last three digits of the license plate of the black sedan when he saw the vehicle driving up and down the parking aisles of the hotel. With that information, patrol officers checked area hotel parking lots for a matching vehicle, and found one that appeared to be scouting the parking lot of the nearby Comfort Inn, 1321 E. 78th St., Herman said.

A traffic stop was conducted in the parking lot of Comfort Inn. The three occupants were dirty and had a floor jack in the back seat of the vehicle. When asked to identify themselves, they initially gave false names, which resulted in their being detained. Upon consenting to a search of their vehicle, officers found 11 catalytic converters in the trunk, all of which appeared to have been sawed off a vehicle. There was also a reciprocating saw and blades, as well as a half gram of suspected methamphetamine, Herman noted.

The men, 23, 20 and 19, were arrested on suspicion of theft and possession of burglary tools. A victim from Hilton Garden Inn reported that the estimate for replacing his catalytic converter, including labor, is $2,600, Herman said.

Home decorating?

A theft of home decor and accessories from the Bloomington Walmart store turned into a robbery investigation when one of the perpetrators reportedly punched a loss prevention officer in the head.

The incident occurred shortly before 3 p.m. March 8. The loss prevention officer said that a short black female in her 20s or 30s, with long dreadlocks, and a black female in her 20s or 30s with multi-colored hair and a medium build attempted to steal merchandise while using the self-checkout register by only paying for a portion of the items. The officer watched the duo through surveillance videos as they failed to scan multiple items in their cart, Herman said.

One of the women departed ahead of the other. The second woman attempted to leave with the unpaid merchandise and was confronted near the store entrance. The 28-year-old loss prevention officer began taking items the unpaid items out of her cart. The woman responded by yelling at the officer and then punching him in the head, according to Herman.

The woman fled the area and police officers were unable to locate her, or the vehicle she arrived in, as determined through parking lot surveillance video. The vehicle’s license plate was identified in the video, and it was registered to a Minneapolis address. Investigators checked the address and found the vehicle parked at a residence. Unable to make contact with anyone in the home, the vehicle was towed for evidence, Herman explained.

Items the duo attempted to steal included four chair pads, curtains, curtain rods and cups, Herman noted.

Insincere gesture?

Police officers responded to a call from a Bloomington hotel regarding a fight that may have been a result of an attempted robbery, depending upon whom you ask.

Officers responding to the reported fight at La Quinta Inn, 7815 Nicollet Ave., met with a 23-year-old Farmington woman. She said she had been dropped off at the hotel by a man she knew as “Sincere James,” who had driven her to Brooklyn Park for “special milk.” The woman said she met him through social media and showed officers his photo from a social media profile, Herman said.

When she was dropped off at the hotel, the man asked for gas money. Not happy with the response he received, the woman reported that he tried to take her purse. She fought with him and was able to make a phone call to her boyfriend, a 25-year-old Minneapolis man, who was inside the hotel. The boyfriend came out to the parking lot, where “Sincere James” proclaimed his innocence. The two men didn’t seem to see eye to eye, as the boyfriend was reportedly punched in the eye, then grabbed by “Sincere James,” who eventually let go of him and drove off without payment or anything else belonging to the woman or her boyfriend, Herman explained.

Angry friend

A fight between two longtime friends ended with the arrest of one of them on suspicion of assault.

Police officers were dispatched to the same La Quinta Inn shortly after midnight March 5. A 65-year-old St. Paul man reported that he had been choked by his friend, who shared an apartment with him. The duo was being evicted, however, and rented a room at the hotel, Herman explained.

During an argument about the eviction, the 41-year-old suspect allegedly pushed the victim down on the bed and choked him. The victim struggled to reach his phone and yelled for help, which resulted in a report to the hotel’s front desk, and a call to the police. When officers arrived, they noted red marks on the victim’s neck. The victim said that his friend hit him in the face. He also noted that his friend has assaulted him in the past and that he was fearful of his friend when he became angry, according to Herman.

The suspect denied any physical confrontation and suggested that the victim had injured himself while moving his possessions out of the apartment. With probable cause, the suspect was arrested. During booking it was determined that the suspect has a past conviction for assault, Herman noted.

Domestic assault

A 40-year-old man was arrested at a Bloomington hotel on suspicion of strangulation involving his 37-year-old girlfriend.

Police officers were dispatched to Microtel Inn and Suites, 801 E. 78th St., shortly before 5 a.m. March 9. Upon arrival, they found the woman in the hotel lobby. She was upset and had red marks and a scratch on her neck. She said that her boyfriend had choked her twice before leaving the hotel, Herman said.

The woman reported that she and her longtime boyfriend are homeless and that they had been at Hennepin County Medical Center the previous day due to his mental health issues. Her boyfriend wanted her to spend the night at a shelter, but she opted for a room at the Microtel, where she was alone until 30 minutes prior to the police arriving. He showed up after calling her and learning that she had checked into the hotel, Herman explained.

She said that she had been sitting on the hotel room bed when he arrived, and he began choking her. He choked her for about one minute, but she didn’t lose consciousness. She did, however, kick a mirror on the wall while struggling to free herself. When she tried to call the front desk for help, he took her phone and began to choke her again. When he released his grip the second time, she was able to flee the room and run to the front desk for help, according to Herman.

The suspect fled the hotel, but didn’t travel far, as officers checking the area found him at the nearby Denny’s restaurant, where he was arrested, Herman noted.

Follow Bloomington community editor Mike Hanks on Twitter at @suncurrent and on Facebook at suncurrentcentral.

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