Baton Rouge police investigators watched the green 2002 Chevrolet Tahoe they had been following pull into the Winn-Dixie parking lot early Monday and drive up to several parked school buses.
They had suspected the Tahoe’s driver, Craig Tolliver, 42, was behind a series of vehicle burglaries in Baton Rouge since May that left dozens of big rigs, school buses, box trucks and other large vehicles without batteries, according to affidavits of probable cause.
They had records from an online database showing Tolliver, 710 Gloria Drive, Apt. 1, had sold nearly 300 vehicle batteries — about 12,000 pounds of batteries — to scrap yards, the affidavits say. They also had surveillance camera footage from some of the burglaries showing a dark-colored Tahoe near the burglarized vehicles.
After Tolliver got out of the Tahoe about 4:44 a.m. Monday at the Winn-Dixie at 6800 Greenwell Springs Road, he took nine batteries out of four buses and put those batteries on the ground, the affidavits say. When he began loading them into his Tahoe, detectives pulled up and arrested him.
He initially told detectives he bought the ones in his SUV for $80 from a friend, but changed his story once investigators began questioning him, the affidavits say.
During questioning, he said he had been out of work and resorted to stealing batteries from large vehicles and selling them at scrap yards for about $10 to $15 a battery, the affidavits say. He said he stole so many that he could not remember the locations of the burglaries.
Most of the burglaries occurred between 3 a.m. and 6 a.m., the affidavits say, and most of the batteries were sold at the scrap yard about two to three hours later.
Investigators targeted Tolliver in the thefts when the Sheriff’s Office began looking into the theft of two batteries from school buses for the Best Child Care Day Care on June 16, according to an arrest warrant issued by the Sheriff’s Office.
The investigators checked an online database of scrap yard sales and found that Tolliver had been selling several hundred pounds of vehicle batteries to East Side Recycling in Denham Springs, the warrant says. When they cross-checked open theft cases, they found Tolliver had sold batteries on the day of or the day after some of the reported vehicle burglaries.
Then on July 30, a Baton Rouge district court judge signed off on a GPS tracking warrant for Tolliver’s green Tahoe, the affidavits say. Two days later, Tolliver’s SUV stopped moving. It was disabled, and stayed in one spot for 15 days until he had it repaired.
They picked up his trail early Monday, leading to his arrest in the Winn-Dixie parking lot.
Police booked Tolliver into Parish Prison on 19 counts of simple burglary and two counts of attempted simple burglary.