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Stakeout ends in arrest of suspected garbage dumper in Petaluma

Published: Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 5:49 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 5:49 p.m.

Week after week for perhaps a year or longer a mystery person drove through a west Petaluma neighborhood, tossing multiple bags of household garbage out onto the streets, said Petaluma police.

It became a major topic of conversation and irritation for many Wickersham Park neighborhood residents who dealt with the leavings. Many of them had kept watch, hoping to spot the culprit and some even picked through the spilled rubbish, unsuccessfully looking for a clue to an identity.

“Every week we would find it in various spots in the neighborhood. At least two bags of garbage. Nothing you could trace back to anybody,” said neighbor Merielle Morshead. “Sometimes a car would hit it and there'd be garbage all over the place. The whole neighborhood has been trying to find out who it is.”

Area resident Paula Deuweke called the trash dumping “beyond obnoxious.”

“It was always tossed on the sidewalk or the gutter in front of somebody's house,” said Dueweke.

“It's not the crime of the century but it really does negatively impact morale in a neighborhood when you have to deal with this kind of nonsense,” said Dueweke.

After fielding complaints from residents for months about the yellow bags of garbage showing up in the streets, near the park and even in some people's landscaping, police recently conducted a few stakeouts.

As the bags typically appeared between 5-7 a.m. officers one day last week showed up early. They think they narrowly missed the dumper last week and Wednesday morning they say they got him.

At 6:45 a.m. officers arrested a neighborhood resident after seeing him toss a yellow bag from his car's passenger window onto G Street, said Petaluma Sgt. Ken Savano.

One officer grabbed the bag, which contained trash, and another officer stopped the driver, who admitted being the person who has been dropping the bags, Savano said.

Officers arrested Floriberto Ojeda, 35. He was taken to the Sonoma County Jail on suspicion of misdemeanor dumping, as well as being an unlicensed driver who was on probation for driving without a license.

His car was impounded for a month and bail was set at $2,000.

Ojeda hasn't had garbage service since June 2012 and officers believe he's the serial garbage chucker, said the sergeant.

“He had no garbage service (at his home.) Apparently that was his way of taking out the trash,” said Savano. “It's really just disheartening that somebody feels that's OK.”

“I know the neighbors are going to be ecstatic,” said Morshead after learning of the arrest.

Savano said officers have been stepping up enforcement at parks citywide, due to citizens' complaints including public drug use, loitering and trash dumping.

On Saturday, a couch and household garbage left at Prince Park in east Petaluma turned up a suspect through names found on mail amongst the litter.

In the tossed mail was a letter indicating a resident was wanted on an arrest warrant in Mendocino County, said Savano.

Officers arrested Walter McIlvain, 50, on the warrant and learned the man's teen son was responsible for the dumping. The son spent a day cleaning up the park, said Savano.

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