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Sweet Recovery

Some local instrument thieves run afoul of Joey Wyatt -- the Dirty Harry of Houston musicians

As he was getting ready to leave, Wyatt had one last request. Would the guys mind filming themselves opening his door with his key? They said no problem, and while they were doing so, Nango arrived. Wyatt was showing Nango that the two keys worked in both locks when he noticed something in the guys' space that he hadn't seen before.

"I saw three of my cymbal stands and my high-hat stand. None of them had serial numbers, but they were all different brands, just like mine. Also, I specifically bought a two-legged high-hat stand, which is uncommon. So I laid all that on the floor and said, 'This is my shit, this is my shit! I can't believe it!'

The guys denied it. They said they'd had the stuff for years. Wyatt called Guitar Center on his cell and had them rattle off all the relevant makes and models -- a list that exactly matched what was lying on the floor of the studio. Wyatt's next call as to the police.

Wyatt spent the next ten minutes or so arguing with Nango and the two musicians. "Finally, I just said to them, 'Look. I know you have my shit. Just give me this and all the rest of it and I won't press charges.' "

Suddenly the two band members and two friends of theirs who were also there all had a bunch of pressing appointments. The two guys not in the band vanished when nobody was looking. One musician said he had a one o'clock class and had to go immediately. Wyatt allowed him to go, but only after copying his information off his driver's license.

One band member was left, and he was sticking to the story. The stuff was his, he told the cop, and the cop pulled Wyatt aside and told him that he really didn't have a case. There were no serial numbers on the cymbal stands. Even the fact that he could prove he bought identical ones, even though the accused culprit had a key to his rehearsal space, meant nothing. Circumstantial evidence.

Suddenly Nango came to the rescue. "He said, 'Hey, man, those two guys that took off -- their room's down the hall here. They took off so fast they left the door unlocked.' "

Jackpot.

"We went and opened up the door, and half of our stuff was there," says Wyatt. "I started jumping up and down, I was so excited." The band member started talking. "He pulled out a 16-channel mixer and some cymbals that were hidden in his room. And the rest of the stuff was at one of their friends' houses or in pawnshops."

(HPD and other police forces routinely check the serial numbers of instruments at pawnshops, so Wyatt would have gotten that stuff back eventually. But the thieves had pawned only the cheap stuff -- they apparently planned to keep the pricier gear.)

Later that day, Wyatt and his guitar player drove back up to Francisco's and knocked on the nearby band members' door. One musician, whom the cops had released pending further investigation, let them in. "My guitar player started yelling at him right off the bat," Wyatt recalls. "I told him to knock it off." He said he told the accused thief it was his chance to redeem himself. "We lent you our best set of drumsticks one time, because you didn't have any, and this is the thanks I get?" he said. "Now's your chance to make it right."

Wyatt is a big guy with a somewhat intimidating demeanor, and he's 33 years old and the president of his own medical scanning company. The alleged thief was much smaller and only about 20. He didn't stand a chance.

"Of course I wanted to physically abuse him, but I felt I could get more results by kind of having a psychological talk with him. So I said we could make all this go away if I just got all my stuff back as soon as possible. And I wouldn't press charges. Simple as that."

Less than 24 hours later, Wyatt had almost all of his stuff back. A few days later he had all of it. The other band has been kicked out of Francisco Studios. And now Wyatt keeps his gear at home, where he has a monitored alarm.

Not that it's necessarily any safer there -- Wyatt's home has also been broken into this year. "I caught that guy and got all my shit back from him, too," notes Wyatt, the Charles Bronson of Houston musicians. "My dad told me I missed my calling in life."

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