The most famous lawn-mower thief in history strode into the view of the rear surveillance camera at a residence in Port Arthur, Texas, just before 10 p.m. on April Fools Day.
He could have been just another petty thief as he broke into the garage and emerged with a bicycle. But instead of just riding off, he propped it against a fence and vanished from view as he returned inside.
He was walking backwards when he reappeared, pulling what proved to be a lawn mower. He swung it around with an ease that suggested cutting grass had figured in his past. He again disappeared from view, this time coming back with a red gas can.
He took considerable care fueling the mower, tipping the red plastic gas can, then pausing to check the level before adding more. He set the container back by the garage.
He then got the mower going with a smooth single pull of the start cord. He seemed to assume that was all he would need, for he had no sooner let go of the cord than he was pushing the mower toward the small lawn at the back of the house.
He continued on across the grass until he was out of view and that would have been that if he simply had been stealing the mower. He was on his way to fame when the camera recorded him coming back. He pivoted on the driveway and his purpose became unmistakable as he guided the mower along the edge of the swath he had just cut.
The guy was mowing the freaking lawn.
And he kept at it, moving back and forth until the grass at the back was done. The footage from the front surveillance camera shows that he continued there, going along a white picket fence. He veered to avoid a slat that had come off. He set the slat outside the fence and made sure to get the spot he missed.
By every indication, he would have finished the job had the sound of the mower not awakened somebody in the house. The roused resident called 911.
“Saying, ‘Hey, there's something's going on outside of my house,” Det. Michael Hebert, the Port Arthur Police Department spokesman, told The Daily Beast. “The officers respond and, I think he's still cutting the front yard when they pull up.”
The man dragged the mower with him as he fled. He abandoned it in a nearby alley.
“Then they couldn't find him,’” Hebert said.
The police quickly identified the suspect as Marcus Renard Hubbard.
“He was a transient,” Hebert said. “[Officers] had seen him around town and stopped him several times.”
Homeless also means lawnless, and maybe the suspect yearned to cut the grass as he would if he had a house of his own. Or perhaps he was doing some kind of penance before walking off with the mower. The police suggested another factor.
“We think this was a drug-induced crime,” Hebert said.
The police noticed something when they reviewed the video.
“At one point, he's cutting the grass and he stops and it appears like he's having a conversation with someone, but there's nobody there,” Hebert reported.
A burglary warrant was issued for Hubbard, who remained at large through April and into May. The incident received no more public attention than if it had been just a routine radio run.
“We're very regimented at what we put out to the public,” Hebert said..
The detective assigned to the case showed Hebert the video with the apparent hope that releasing it might help locate Hubbard. Hebert went to Chief Timothy Duriso.
“I said, ‘Man, this is gonna be a statewide story,” Herbert recalled. “Little did I know it would turn into a national news story.”
On May 5, the video went up on the department’s Facebook page and immediately went viral.
“I'm not a social media guy, but my wife said, ‘Hey, you gotta, you gotta read some of these comments,’” Hebert recalled.
Hebert scrolled through them.
I have an old lawnmower he can have it he cuts the yard first
I’d like to give this suspect my address please…
Is there a new street drug that compels you to do yard work?!
Is he OCD and could not stand the sight of the lawn? He's so careful- tidy even. Puts the bike aside carefully, the broken fence. Is he some sort of guardian yard angel? I wish I would wake up and find he has done my hedges.
I keep the mower out back in the shed it's unlocked. Make sure you hit the flower beds also
The response dwarfed even that generated by footage of the young man whom the Port Arthur police call “The Ice Cream Licker.”
“We had a kid last year, he videotapes himself [as] he goes into a store, opens up some Blue Bell Ice Cream and licks it and puts it back in,” Hebert said.
One difference was that Ice Cream Licker—identified as 24-year-old D'Adrien Anderson—confessed that he made the video with the express hope of garnering views on social media. He was sentenced to 30 days in jail even though the store’ surveillance footage showed he purchased the same container after the filming.
A burglary warrant has been issued for Hubbard. He was still a fugitive as of Thursday. Police say that the homeowner whose lawn he mowed has asked not to be identified.
Meanwhile, the Port Arthur Police posted another remarkable story. This concerned “recent occurrences of burglaries and or thefts at churches.”
“These burglaries are occurring during services,” the posting says, “It involves multiple people all acting together to commit the crime. They are occurring in plain sight, but with so many people already at the church during the service, it becomes easy to hide in plain sight.”
The department declined to provide further details, but Vincent Vu of the parish council at Queen of Vietnam Catholic Church in Port Arthur told The Daily Beast that a group of thieves broke into the rectory right after the start of Sunday Mass six weeks ago, making off with cash. Vu reported that the same group returned last week and attempted to repeat the crime, but were stymied by a newly hired security guard.
Ve says the police said the culprits are robbing churches during service between Port Athur and Houston. Vu added that the thieves also hit St. Joseph’s Church in Beaumont during the early Mass on May 8, forcing a rear door and making off with $2,000.
A new Port Arthur viral video may be in the offing, as Vu says that the church’s security cameras recorded the two crimes there. He says that the thieves used the same van on both occasions and seemed at ease. They just ambled away when confronted by the guard.
“Very calmly,” Vu said. “They know we can’t shoot them. We’re a church, we can’t shoot anybody.”
That may be exactly why the thieves are targeting churches.
“In Texas, everybody has a gun,” Vu noted.
As for the lawn-mower case, Hebert said that the suspect appears to have set out a weed whacker before reaching for the mower. One remaining question is whether he planned on finishing the job by trimming the edges, as he might were he a homeowner rather than homeless and therefore lawnless.