Cop's persistence leads to veteran's stolen Meritorious Service Medal
San Antonio Express-News
It was gut instinct that led San Antonio Police Officer Robert Dupee to find the rightful owner of several military service medals — including a Meritorious Service Medal — that had ended up in the hands of someone else.
Dupee was out on a routine patrol on the city's East Side late last month when he stopped a man whom he had encountered two days before who was suspected of criminal trespassing, a police report said.
Dupee stopped Jesus “Jesse” Vargas, 26, on Sept. 24 near East Commerce and North Hackberry Street where Vargas was blocking the road with a shopping cart, an affidavit said.
Looking over the cart's contents, Dupee saw gold necklaces, old cufflinks and tie pins inside a gold and white antique jewlery box.
Vargas told Dupee he was taking the items to an antique dealer to try to sell them, according to the police report. When Dupee asked him where he got the items, Vargas answered, “I found them in a Dumpster behind Rent-a-Center off on Houston.”
Also in Vargas' cart, Dupee spotted a blue case containing military medals, including the Meritorious Service Medal, the non-combat equivalent of a Bronze Star, the nation's fourth highest award for valor.
Dupee wrote in his report that he was “surprised” that such a “prestigious” medal would be thrown away. When he asked Vargas about it, Dupee said he replied, “Yeah, they throw a lot of things out over there like this.”
Dupee took a closer look inside the cart and picked up a multi-colored medal with an apple on it. A name had been engraved on its back — a name he was familiar with but couldn't place at the time.
Since no burglaries had been reported at the time, Dupee let Vargas go.
Later, Dupee found an address for the 80-year-old man whose name was on the back of the medal.
Dupee went to the man's house, but no one was home. He walked around the back and saw it had been burglarized, according to the report. Dupee found the victim's sister, the man's caretaker, and she said no one had permission to enter the house.
The sister then filled out a burglary report, and Dupee went to a pawnshop, where he found several items that matched the descriptions of property reported stolen, according to the affidavit.
Dupee found Vargas again on Oct. 1 and took him to SAPD's property crimes office, where police say he confessed to taking the veteran's medals and going directly to the pawnshop to sell them. Attempts to reach the medals' owner were unsuccessful. The man appears to no longer live at the address Dupee found, and calls to a phone number thought to be his went unanswered.
Vargas, 26, was arrested Monday night and charged with burglary, a second degree felony. Bail was set at $20,000. Vargas also is accused of entering the U.S. illegally and faces an immigration hold, according to Bexar County Jail officials.