Our delivery guy came looking for our white Ford van in the Houston Press parking lot Tuesday afternoon, intent on picking up a load of Tacolandia supplies to bring to our warehouse, ahead of the taco event next weekend. It was full of cups, plates, drinking games and a corn hole set.
But the van was missing. Rather, it was stolen, as the Houston Press business manager, Joe Ferrara, would soon discover Tuesday afternoon after reviewing surveillance video, which shows the headlights of the van peering out of the parking lot and disappearing down La Branch around 11:30 p.m. Monday.
The Houston Police Department took down a stolen vehicle report — and about 12 hours after that, around 4 a.m. Wednesday, Houston police were calling the Houston Press business office back with an update: They had found the van. It had just been used in a smash-and-grab in southeast Houston, at a Chevron convenience store at Cullen and Almeda Genoa — a taqueria. Yes, our van full of Tacolandia supplies was apparently used to break into a taco restaurant.
According to HPD spokesman John Cannon, the van — which, reportedly, our business team lovingly named Big Bertha — smashed into the storefront glass around 2:45 a.m. Wednesday, startling the one employee at the register. The employee reported that three men, two of them wearing ski masks, darted from the van looking for the ATM machine while a fourth stayed at the wheel.
But unfortunately, it was amateur hour for the thieves, and they had accidentally run over the ATM machine on their way in, and it was stuck under the van, and then when they tried to escape in the van, Big Bertha wouldn't start.
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So they ran away on foot with nothing. Except for our 21 boxes of plates, cups and forks and knives, some beer pong games and the Tacolandia-brandished corn hole, most of which they — or whoever stole the van from our lot — had already removed by the time police recovered it.
Cannon said police do not have any leads yet on the suspects.
Ferrara, our business manager, said damage to the van, which appears to have been hot-wired and was generally used for moving supplies rather than distributing the weekly newspaper, includes a kaput engine and front-end damage.
The good news is that Tacolandia is still happening. The taco-tasting event is on October 21 from 4 to 7 p.m. at 105 Sabine, in Buffalo Bayou Park.