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Theft Victim Finds Stolen Van, Wants Justice

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LAWTON Okla_ A little over a week ago, we told you about a Lawton man who caught a thief stealing his family van out of his driveway on a home security camera.

Last Friday, Matthew Eccles found his van in a partially abandoned apartment complex, but he's not through speaking out about it. He said just hours after he posted the video to facebook and after we aired the story on it, he and the Lawton Crimestoppers received numerous tips all pointing to the same suspect. Yet, a week and a half later, the person still isn't in custody. Eccles isn't happy about that.

Eccles contacted Lawton police on the 5th, the day after his van was stolen. Two days later, he got a detective assigned to the case, but in an unfortunate turn of events, his detective was re-assigned to last week's homicide.

He said he understands that a homicide takes importance over a vehicle theft, but now feels his case has suffered as a result. To Eccles, it seemed like an open and shut case.

"Within a few hours, I posted the video on facebook trying to find out if anybody knew who it was," Eccles said. "Immediately, within probably 30 minutes, I had people contacting me of a person who they thought it was. It just kept on coming in time and time again, the same person over and over again."

Lawton police say it's not that simple.

"No, there is a whole lot more that goes into that, besides just locking somebody up," LPD Chief James Smith said. "You have to do an investigation, we have to present our case before the district attorney, we have to file the case, and our warrants have to be filed, before we can just go lock somebody up."

Eccles said he understands all of the hoops law enforcement has to jump through, so he worked to be as helpful as possible. He caught everything on video from the theft to the recovery of the vehicle and stayed in constant contact with his detective. He said he still feels the ball was dropped on LPD's side.

"We've provided them so much information, they should've been able to act on it Monday when the detective was assigned," Eccles said. "That's where my frustration lies: in the time that has gone by, the time that has been passed and still nothing."

Once his detective was pulled onto the homicide investigation, Eccles even went so far to help track down the suspect and had him arrested by an LPD officer, but due to a lack of a warrant, they were forced to let him go.

Matthew said he is dumbfounded by the amount of action that hasn't been taken given the evidence available. He believes the police's priorities don't match up with that of the public, and he wants everyone to be held accountable for their actions, the police included.

"If people aren't held accountable for their actions, then we're sending the wrong message," Eccles said. "People need to be held accountable, from the people that commit the crimes to the law enforcement that's upholding the law. If they aren't held accountable, then who do we have to rely on?"

Chief Smith did say that the subject in question is the one they believe to be the suspect. They are now waiting on the DA to file charges to issue the warrant for his arrest.

We also asked Chief Smith if the holdup in solving this case had anything to do with a lack of officers, or how the detectives are now split up. He said no.  He went on to explain that unfortunately, the week Eccles' van was stolen was exceptionally busy with a stabbing, a shooting and homicide just days later. He reiterates the case is being taken seriously, and they intend to make an arrest soon.

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