While out of town, Santa Barbara resident Mike Eliason was able to assist officers in arresting Buellton burglary suspect
By Tom Bolton, Noozhawk Executive Editor
Mike Eliason is known to many as a source of timely information about wildfires, crashes and other public-safety incidents in Santa Barbara County.
But the public information officer for the Santa Barbara County Fire Department found himself in a very different role Sunday night, when a stranger broke into the home he shares with his wife, Kathy, in the Mesa neighborhood in Santa Barbara.
Eliason was out of town at about 6:45 p.m. when he was alerted by cameras on the property about a possible intruder.
“The guy pulled right in and parked in the driveway,” Eliason told Noozhawk.
Eliason watched via his security cameras as the man walked into the courtyard, then climbed a fence and proceeded into the backyard.
The man found a crowbar or piece of metal in a backyard shed, Eliason said, and smashed a side window, gaining access to the inside of the home.
Eliason called the Santa Barbara Police Department’s communications center to report the break-in, and officers were dispatched to the scene.
He provided a description of the suspect, and kept the dispatcher apprised of where the man was in the residence.
The intruder spent a lot of time rummaging around in the house, Eliason said.
“He was going through drawers, opening cabinets and taking down pictures,” Eliason said. “He went into the garage and got into my car.”
Police officers quickly surrounded the home and ordered the man to come out, but he was not compliant, and the incident continued for nearly two hours, according to police.
Eliason was able to remotely open the window blinds, which aided officers in tracking the suspect’s whereabouts in the residence.
Eventually, a police K-9 dog was sent in to locate and detain the suspect, who in the meantime had gone into a bedroom closet and donned one of Eliason’s County Fire Department uniforms.
After a brief struggle with police, the man was taken into custody shortly after 9 p.m., according to police Sgt. Ethan Ragsdale.
The suspect, identified as Trey Von Duus, 21, of Buellton, was booked into Santa Barbara County Jail on suspicion of felony burglary, resisting arrest, and vehicle theft, Ragsdale said.
He remained in custody Monday, with bail set at $50,000.
The vehicle Duus arrived in was found to be stolen out of Santa Ynez, Ragsdale added.
The whole experience was a unique one for Eliason.
“I’m used to providing information about fires and crashes, but this was something I’d rather not do,” he said.
— Noozhawk executive editor Tom Bolton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.