East Bay

High on Meth, Burglar Swallows Ring Stolen From Walnut Creek Home

"We’ve never had an example where we had a photographic example of stolen property via an X-ray," police said

Police in the San Francisco Bay Area retrieved evidence from an unusual place last week.

A burglar, identified as Joel Steffensen, stole a ring from a Walnut Creek home Thursday and swallowed it, then led police on a pursuit that ended when he slammed into a BART station fence, police said. According to authorities, Steffensen had smoked meth prior to the break-in.

Steffensen was taken into custody and underwent a medical exam at a local hospital.

"The doctor saw some movement in the mouth and said, 'Hey, what’s in your mouth?'" said Walnut Creek police Lt. Lanny Edwards.

An X-ray revealed what he was trying to hide.

"It’s clear there is a metallic ring inside the suspect’s esophagus," Edwards said, adding, "We’ve never had an example where we had a photographic example of stolen property via an X-ray."

The homeowner reported the crime from his backyard after he woke up to the sound of Steffensen allegedly breaking into his house.

The victim’s neighbor, Tappee Massallia, remembered thinking, "Oh, my gosh! What’s this around? What’s happening?" when she spotted helicopters.

Steffensen fled when police arrived, triggering a chase through "several yards" and a "fight" to take him into custody, Edwards said. The suspect crashed his getaway vehicle at a nearby BART track. He was apprehended and taken to the hospital, according to Edwards.

Responding officers said Steffensen admitted to smoking meth earlier in the day, adding that doctors had to operate on him to fish out the stolen ring.

Police also discovered about $5,500 worth of other jewelry crammed into a pillowcase taken from the home.

Steffenson is in custody at the county jail and is facing multiple charges, including burglary and resisting arrest. It wasn't immediately known if he had hired an attorney who could comment on the case.

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