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Man arrested for stealing excavator, digging up ground outside SLC grocery store

Posted at 3:34 PM, Aug 06, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-07 16:14:02-04

SALT LAKE CITY — A man was arrested after stealing an excavator from a construction site in Salt Lake City and driving it about a mile before digging up the ground near a grocery store, according to police.

Witnesses called 911 around noon on Saturday to report a man "randomly" digging in the grass strip and sidewalk outside Smith's at 828 S. 900 West.

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In the process, police say he hit a water line and ripped out newly-installed fiber optic lines. There was no gas leak, according to utility crews and firefighters who responded to the scene. Police said they are still working to figure out the full extent of the damage.

According to court documents, 46-year-old Omar Ortega stole the excavator from a construction site near 900 South and 300 West after it was left running. Crews at the site then followed him as he drove the machine to the grocery store about a mile west. Police also said a crowd of people at the store prevented the suspect from leaving before officers arrived.

The total cost of damages to the city from the incident was estimated at over $40,500, police said.

Bail has been set at $1,000.