Food Cart Owners Help Police Bust Man Suspected in String of Burglaries

The suspect was caught after allegedly breaking into multiple carts on North Killingsworth, then going to another cart pod.

One small piece of good news this week: Police have arrested a suspect in the string of food cart burglaries that have rocked a large number Portland small businesses in recent weeks.

Food carts have seemed particularly vulnerable in recent weeks after a well-publicized spree of break-ins, including one particularly ballsy series of break-ins on Northeast Kilingsworth about two blocks away from the North Precinct building.

Now it appears that police have arrested a suspect after multiple break-ins on carts at 1331 N. Killingsworth Street last week—although police report that investigations continue on the other burglaries.

The suspect, Charles Lawrence Johnson, 32, was picked up using cell phone data—after the owners of Chicken Adobo and Pho Dat carts on North Killingsworth alerted police to cell phone tracking data after their iPhone was stolen late Thursday night.

"They didn't get any cash," says Olga Surin of Hungaricana food cart at the same North Killingsworth pod, "but that's apparently what led to the arrest, because they took that iPhone [from Chicken Adobo.]"

Brandie Ma of Chicken Adobo—whose husband Dat Ma owns adjoining Vietnamese cart Pho Dat—says she and her husband tracked the phone after their surveillance camera showed it being stolen Thursday, November 10.

"The police can't track a phone unless it's life or death," Ma says. "We had to keep updating the location and sending it to police."

They helped police track the phone until Johnson was found early Friday morning, at about 2 or 3 am, Ma says.

Police arrested him on the site of yet another food cart pod, at North Mississippi Avenue and Fremont Street. "He didn't get anything from our pod except some change and the phone," Ma says.

Both Chicken Adobo and Pho Dat moved up to the North Killingsworth pod at the beginning of November, citing high rent at the Happy Valley Station pod in Clackamas County.

Johnson was also charged in the burglary of Sherpa Nirvana on still another pod, on Northeast 42nd Avenue.

According to the police press release, Johnson has already been arrested on October 26 for a burglary of Tina's Corner Restaurant at 5515 Southeast 122nd Avenue.

Portland Police request that anyone with additional info on the burglaries should contact Detective Matt Estes at 503-823-0462,