Los Banos Police say Catholic bishop's theft was crime of opportunity

Los Banos Police say Catholic bishop's theft was crime of opportunity

LOS BANOS, Calif. -

Police are searching for the thief or thieves who stole sacred items from a local Catholic bishop.

Bishop Armando Ochoa of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Fresno parked outside M&M Italian Restaurant off Pacheco Boulevard in Los Banos on Sunday. A thief broke into his car while he was inside the restaurant eating lunch.

"I don't believe the burglar knew what he was taking or the fact that the vehicle belonged to a bishop," said Los Banos Police Sergeant Elias Reyes.  "They thought perhaps it was money or something of value inside the briefcase."

The burglar stole irreplaceable items like a wooden crosier, gifted to the bishop 5 years ago when he moved to Fresno. They also took his oil stock which he got 30 years ago when he was ordained a bishop. They even stole his ritual book, among other things. 

"I don't feel badly personally but I feel badly because of the symbolism behind it," said Bishop Ochoa. "I cannot believe anyone could have done this intentionally knowing it would be needed for the two confirmations the same afternoon."

Parishioners at nearby Saint Joseph's Church in Los Banos were stunned. "How dare you take his stuff, that is bad," said Lucy Flores.

"I'm disappointed, just disappointed there's so much sadness going on in this world," said Helen Mello.

Bishop Ochoa says he just wants his sacred items back. He says the thief can drop them off at any Central Valley church and they'll ask no questions.

"It's very upsetting. We hate it when anybody is victimized, especially when it involves sentimental trinkets of this nature," said Reyes. 

When asked if vehicle break-ins were on the rise, Los Banos Police said they respond to car burglaries regularly and that they are not uncommon.


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