Oakland veteran reunited with stolen items

SAN LEANDRO (BCN) — San Leandro police on Tuesday reunited a retired Army sergeant with some personal belongings that had been taken from an Oakland home earlier this month after officers arrested the man found in possession of the stolen items.

Officers stumbled upon the stolen military items at 3 p.m. Monday in Oakland as officers were searching for a wanted felon who had warrants for his arrest in San Leandro, according to police.

Undercover detectives spotted 47-year-old Michael Welch in front of his Oakland home in the 1700 block of 84th Avenue, police said.

Officers arrested Welch as he was getting into a vehicle, which detectives realized had been reported stolen out of Oakland on April 26. After the arrest, police also discovered the vehicle had license plates on it that had been stolen from another vehicle, according to police.

Detectives suspected Welch of being involved in other criminal activity and since he was on probation for firearm-related offenses, police were allowed to search his residence without a search warrant, police said.

Inside Welch’s home, officers found a loaded pistol with its serial number removed. Officers also found narcotics there, police said.

Detectives next searched a parked vehicle in the home’s driveway. Inside the vehicle, officers discovered military equipment, a shotgun and other items which officers were able to identify as belonging to a retired Army sergeant, police said.

When officers contacted the veteran, he told officers that he had stored his belongings inside the back of a locked U-Haul truck, which was stolen from an Oakland residence on June 4, according to police.

On Tuesday, officers met with the retired sergeant, who was thankful to hear that some of his items had been recovered.

Officers learned the man had served in the army for 20 years and had been deployed to Haiti, Bosnia, Kosovo and served two tours of duty in Iraq, police said.

Among the man’s military items were an American flag that was presented to him at his retirement ceremony, as well as a second flag that had been given to him by a colonel after it had been flown at an Army base in Iraq for 9 minutes and 11 seconds in honor of the Sept. 11, 2001, attack on the New York’s World Trade Center, according to police.

Although officers were not able to locate all of the victim’s items, police said they will continue their investigation in an attempt to return all of his belongings to him.

“One of the best things about police work is that we are often reminded about the great impact we may have on someone else. In this case, words cannot describe how proud the detectives were to return the stolen belongings to a retired U.S. Army veteran,” Lt. Robert McManus said in a statement.

Officers booked Welch for his outstanding warrants, as well as on suspicion of being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm with the serial number removed, possession of stolen property, auto theft and other drug-related crimes.

Welch has since been charged in the case and is due in Alameda County Superior Court in Oakland on Friday.

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