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Man stole an excavator and started digging, police say, causing significant damage


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SALT LAKE CITY — Salt Lake City police arrested a man Saturday after they say he stole an excavator from a construction site, drove almost a mile and caused significant damage by randomly digging up the ground.

The excavator was used to dig out parts of a sidewalk, parking lot and grass, causing a ruptured water main and a destroying a Google Fiber fiber-optic cable that was recently installed, according to Salt Lake City police spokesman Brent Weisberg.

Salt Lake City police arrested a man Saturday after they say he stole an excavator from a construction site, drove almost a mile and caused significant damage by randomly digging up the ground.
Salt Lake City police arrested a man Saturday after they say he stole an excavator from a construction site, drove almost a mile and caused significant damage by randomly digging up the ground. (Photo: Ray Boone, KSL-TV)

A press release from the Salt Lake City Police Department says shortly after noon on Saturday, police got a report that a man — later identified by police as 46-year-old Omar Ortega — was using a stolen excavator to dig up ground at 828 South 900 West, the location of a Smith's Food and Drug store.

Police said the excavator was left running at a job site at 900 South and 300 West and, for an unknown reason, Ortega drove it about a mile, including under the freeway and started using it.

Construction crew members followed the excavator to the grocery store parking lot, and a large group of people helped prevent the driver from leaving until police officers arrived, the release said.

"Fortunately, there were no injuries reported and no crashes occurred while the excavator was being illegally operated," police said.

There was, however, significant damage to the property. Salt Lake City Public Utilities, Salt Lake City Streets, Salt Lake City Fire and Dominion Energy responded to assess damage and verify that there were no additional issues including natural gas leaks.

Ortega was booked into the Salt Lake County Jail for investigation of theft and criminal mischief.

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Emily Ashcraft joined KSL.com as a reporter in 2021. She covers courts and legal affairs, as well as health, faith and religion news.

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