OCEAN PARK — Two Ocean Park residents were recently caught red (meat)-handed.
Taylor Whybark, 19, faces up to 15 years in prison and $30,000 in fines for allegedly breaking into Sara’s Rusty Spur Bar & Grille. Robert Cameron, 48, pleaded guilty to the robbery, and will be in jail for 30 days. The sheriff’s office is searching for a third man allegedly involved in the robbery, Kevin Otto.
The trio allegedly broke into the restaurant, at 1201 Bay Ave., on May 10. More than $7,600 worth of food, alcohol and restaurant supplies were taken, said Sara Huddleston, who owns the place with her husband Mike.
“It almost broke us,” Huddleston said. “We had to overdraw our bank account and pay for things out of pocket.”
Burglary and theft in the second degree are felonies. Whybark and Otto face felony charges for the break-in.
On May 10, several pounds of bread, meat and cheese were stolen, as well as alcohol, candy, and other foods. The restaurant’s security system and its dumbwaiter were also broken.
“They took tons of stuff. Garbage cans full of stuff that you wouldn’t even think of until you realize they are gone,” Huddleston said.
Before midnight the night of the burglary, Deputy Dustin Eaton went to an Ocean Park residence in response to a reported fight. Cameron, Whybark and Otto were all at the home. While Eaton was there, he noticed grocery bags and a cooler full of meats, cheese and other food items.
“I observed several plastic bags of food items and supplies one would expect to see inside a restaurant,” reads Eaton’s report of the visit. “I could see several bags of hamburger buns, cooking pans and various other food items.”
While talking to Cameron, Eaton asked him whether the bags belonged to him. Cameron said he’d bought some snacks for his grandson and put them in one of the grocery bags, but didn’t have a receipt for the purchase, Eaton wrote.
During his visit, Eaton noticed Whybark and Otto left the residence. Eaton took everything to the sheriff’s office. He returned some of the food and the restaurant’s security system to Huddleston.
“Even if I could have used that meat, I wouldn’t have,” Huddleston said. “We didn’t use any of that stuff.”
The restaurant stayed open as usual after the burglary.
“We didn’t even close that day,” Huddleston said. “We headed straight to Astoria to get supplies so we could continue working.”
Huddleston worked with Deputy Kyle Pettit and Deputy Rick Goodwin on the case. The day after the burglary, Huddleston reviewed security footage, which showed three people breaking into the restaurant during the night.
The people in the video looked similar to Cameron, Whybark and Otto, according to a sheriff’s office report. During the initial call, Eaton noticed Cameron walked with a limp. One of the men in the video also walked with a limp.
During a May 13 interview, an ex-girlfriend of Cameron’s said the pair got into an argument May 10. The fight escalated, and she sprayed Cameron with pepper spray where he had open wounds on his feet. The spray gave him a limp, according to the report.
On May 11, after Cameron allegedly took the girlfriend’s car while she was asleep, he returned with “a suitcase full of meat and a bottle of Aristocrat alcohol.” Cameron allegedly told the girlfriend the meat came from the Rusty Spur.
On May 16, Pettit questioned Cameron about where he was around the time of the robbery. At first, he said he hadn’t been near the restaurant but after the security footage was mentioned, he said he might have been in the area picking up cans.
On May 17, Cameron admitted to participating in the breakin with Whybark and Otto. He said he was pressured into helping them.
Cameron could have faced 15 years in prison and $30,000 in fines. Instead, he got 30 days because he agreed to a plea deal.
A jury trial is scheduled for Whybark on July 29. He may face up to 15 years in prison and $30,000 in fines. Whybark has a juvenile criminal history, which may influence his sentencing.
Otto hasn’t been arrested by the sheriff’s office. He will likely face similar charges to Whybark.
Huddleston said the community has been supportive. She also commended the deputies’ work with the case. “The robbery was devastating. It was horrible,” Huddleston said. “We’re still trying to catch up but we’re getting there.”
Huddleston said the restaurant lost some business because of rumors that the restaurant used the stolen food. The restaurant has also gained some business since concerned community members have been coming in for coffee and to talk.
“We’re getting back to business as usual,” Huddleston said.