- Published on Tuesday, 15 January 2008 19:56
- Written by Eliza Ridgeway - Town Crier Staff Writer
The man suspected of posing as a Buddhist tourist and attempting to run down a Los Altos police officer last spring was arrested in Reno Jan. 8, thanks to tipsters who called "America"s Most Wanted."
The TV show featured the case of Robert Falkner, 33, an alleged scam artist who led police on a high-speed chase through Los Altos after trying to bilk money from a resident on El Sereno Road March 1.
A police officer had responded to a call from a Los Altos resident who suspected she might be in the midst of a scam. A man, claiming to be a Buddhist tourist affiliated with her religious organization, called to ask for assistance. He claimed he had lost his passport and luggage. He arrived at the woman"s house with a wife and two children in tow.
When Los Altos Detective Wes Beveridge pulled his patrol car behind Falkner"s car in the resident"s driveway, Falkner "jumped into the car, put it in reverse and hit the gas," Beveridge said. "I couldn"t shoot the car because the kids were in it. … He pops it into drive, goes right at the homeowner, does an S-turn out of the driveway and takes off."
With a cavalcade of police in patrol cars and on motorcycles on his tail, Falkner allegedly led a brief high-speed chase through the city before police terminated the pursuit out of fear for the children"s safety.
Police determined Falkner"s identity when an alert they had issued turned up a call from San Carlos — a man had discovered an abandoned car storage container in his yard laden with the Falkner family"s personal information, ranging from clothing to a family photo album.
Los Altos issued a warrant charging Falkner with assaulting a police officer with a deadly weapon but, after another impersonation attempt in Malibu, he fell off police radar until January. "America"s Most Wanted" posted Falkner"s profile on the show"s Web site and ran a "15-seconds of Shame" segment describing his case Jan. 5. A call came from a casino in Reno, then another call. The U.S. Marshals Service, which maintains a fugitive retrieval team, tracked Falkner to the Sands Regency Hotel and Casino and arrested him on a warrant from Marin County.
"I"m now catch No. 973," Beveridge said with evident pleasure, referring to the TV show"s total fugitive captures. "The one thing I was afraid of was that they were going to make me catch No. 1,000 and make me go on TV."
In an effort to publicize the manhunt, Beveridge contacted the show himself after a joking conversation with Sgt. Scott McCrossin, another officer involved in the incident.