BELEN—A man on parole is facing two counts of commercial burglary after police say he targeted two Belen businesses earlier this month.
Belen Police Lt. Jose Natividad said his officers deserve the credit for their hard work in capturing 53-year-old George Harney, of Rio Rancho, for his alleged criminal acts.
On Monday, Jan. 11, police received a report that two men attempted to break into the Kick’s 66 gas station on South Main Street in Belen. Video surveillance captured two men trying to get into the business.
“Two males were seen approaching the front of Kick’s — one shorter, one taller,” Natividad said. “The shorter one was wearing a ball cap and carrying a black and yellow hammer. He starts to strike the bottom of the glass door.”
The lieutenant said the other man started to kick the glass door, and the other man again strikes it with the hammer. The two men were unable to get into the business, but did damage the glass door.
“They damaged the whole door,” Natividad said. “I don’t know if it was because they couldn’t get in or it was taking too long, but they took off.
“Mr. (Paul) Baca, the owner of Kick’s had pretty expensive glass in order for them not able to make entry,” the lieutenant said, “but they had to replace that whole door, which was pretty expensive.”
A week later on Monday, Jan. 18, one suspect broke into La Dos Gringas restaurant at 2100 Camino del Llano in Belen. Natividad said the man broke the west side window with a hammer — a black and yellow hammer the burglar had left behind.
The break-in was also captured on video surveillance.
“The man entered the place and went directly toward one room but immediately came out and went directly into the restaurant’s office,” Natividad said. “From the camera angle, you could see him lifting up cushions looking for what he wanted — an undisclosed amount of money.”
Natividad said the man also went through the cash register and took money from that, as well as a tool bag that was in the counter below the register. The man, the lieutenant said, exited out the restaurant’s back door.
BPD Sgt. Mario Vallejos had made contact with the owner, and subsequently received an anonymous tip about a potential suspect, later identified to police as Harney.
“He’s from the Belen area, but has been gone for so many years in the military and prison,” Natividad said. “He’s been in and out of the Belen area, but his registered address is in Rio Rancho.”
Anonymous tips about his hangout spots were given to Vallejos and Detective Barulio Hernandez, who, with other officers including Natividad, went to several hotels in the area of University and Menaul in Albuquerque.
Without being able to find him there, officers then went to Harney’s parents’ home in Rio Rancho on Friday, Jan. 22. When they knocked on the door, Harney’s sister answered and told the officers he was there.
“She gave officers permission to go in and talk to George,” Natividad said. “After a short conversation, he was placed under arrest. He never admitted (to the burglaries) but he never denied it.”
Natividad said the arrest warrant for Harney was from probation and parole. In the meantime, BPD is working on charging Harney for two counts of conspiracy to commit commercial burglary for the crimes in Belen. A search warrant for his room at his parents’ house resulted in police finding keys that were stolen from La Dos Gringa’s office.
“He’s not the only player, and we have other people of interest we want to speak to,” Natividad said of the case. “The investigation is still open. We do know who the suspects are and we’re looking for them.”
“Sgt. Vallejos and Detective Hernandez were on it and I give all credit to them for solving these cases,” Natividad said.
Belen police have been busy this month, Natividad said, with two armed robberies — the first on at Dollar Tree on Jan. 6, and another at Dollar General on Jan. 15.
“(Sgt. Vallejos) was able to link the two cases with descriptions and a license plate, and the suspect turned himself in,” Natividad said. “The man used a knife in both incidents and demanded money. That’s how we linked those two together was he did it with the same method of operation.”
Kevan Branvold, in his early 20, of Belen, has been charged with two counts of armed robbery.
Clara Garcia is the editor and publisher of the Valencia County News-Bulletin.
She is a native of the city of Belen, beginning her journalism career at the News-Bulletin in 1998 as the crime and courts reporter. During her time at the paper, Clara has won numerous awards for her writing, photography and typography and design both from the National Newspaper Association and the New Mexico Press Association.