A small town security integrator faces a felony charge after failing to turn over surveillance video to the authorities. The case is set to go to trial in March, and the integrator won’t say if he has the footage or not. Here’s what we learned about the case after talking to the integrator, and the manager of the hotel where the images were captured.
John Abens, owner of Moses Lake Security, is facing a first-degree criminal assistance charge for refusing to give police video from Sage and Sand Motel in Moses Lake, Washington. Police suspect two armed robbery suspects visited the hotel wearing the same clothes they wore during the crime.
When police initially requested the footage, the hotel manager wasn’t able to provide it because she didn’t know how to operate the system. The owners, who are constantly traveling, gave her permission to contact Abens, the installer, to pull the video. Abens says at the time he didn’t know the video was related to the armed robbery, and he never watched the footage.
What The Footage May Show
The officer handling the case was not available to comment, but the manager of Sage and Sand Motel says police wanted the footage to test a suspect’s alibi.
“To my knowledge they are looking for a gentleman in a hoodie that had been there on a certain date between 11 and 2:30 and bought a Mr. Pibb from our Coke machine. They wanted the footage of this man doing that,” she said. Police say one of the suspects frequented the motel’s lobby to use the machine, according to the local newspaper.
Abens came to the motel a few days after the manager contacted him, picked up the DVR and returned it later that night. He told the motel he made two copies, one to archive and one to provide to police. He left the detectives a message saying the DVD was ready on Nov. 19 and began making plans to travel to Seattle for heart surgery.
“I’ve been basically dying from heart disease,” he said when we spoke to him by phone. “If I work for one hour, I have to rest two days in bed. I was on 12 medications trying to keep my heart going and now that I had the surgery I need to rest for a year to get my strength back.”
The local paper says detectives tried to contact him several times to pick up the DVD, but never got a hold of him. By the time they connected, he was on his way out of town and wouldn’t be back until December fourth, after the surgery.
Refusing to Provide the DVD
After he returned from surgery, reports say Abens refused to give police the footage. Abens, however says he wasn’t stalling, but there were problems exporting the video and he was trying to recover from his surgery.
“For some reason the support files didn’t copy over so the video wouldn’t play. I had to find the files and put them in the folder, but I didn’t have a chance to make a working disc,” he said. Eventually, he says detectives requests became more angry, and he refused to cooperate after friends told him he should focus on his health.
“I’ve been providing footage to them for six years, probably a thousand dollars worth of work, and I did it for free. I’ve helped them catch a lot of criminals. I don’t know why they got so mad. I was very sick. I’d just gotten out of surgery two days before,” he said.
That’s when police served a warrant to try and find the DVD. They were unsuccessful. Abens said the DVD was broken in the trunk of his car.
Is the Footage Really Gone Forever?
Abens won’t say if he has another copy DVD copy or if the footage his still available on the DVR.
“I can’t comment on that right now because that pertains to what my attorney is trying to do,” he said.
It's likely it doesn’t exist on the DVR anymore because the motel says the system overwrites footage every 17 days. Abens says the police could have seized the DVR themselves during the time he wasn’t available.
The manager of Sage and Sand Motel says she had no idea there was an issue between the police and Abens until she read about his arrest in the newspaper.
The case must really hinge on that video footage if prosecutors are willing to go after an integrator who just had heart surgery with a felony charge to make a point.