Thieves were able to fill up multiple vehicles without paying a dime when they tampered with gas pumps at the Valero station at 3972 El Camino Real on July 1 and 3.
Between 10:30 and 11 p.m. on July 1, two men pumped $281.22 worth of unleadeded plus gasoline into four different vehicles, Palo Alto Police Officer Sean Downey said.
Surveillance videos captured the two men in the act, breaking the gas pump's counter with a tool, possibly a screwdriver, and filling up the vehicles. Downey described the first man as a black male between the ages of 23 and 27 around 5' 6'' tall, 150 pounds and wearing blue jeans and a grey T-shirt. He said the second man was a black male in the same age range but 6 feet tall, 220 pounds, heavy with a potbelly, unshaven and wearing black pants and a white T-shirt.
Four vehicles filled up on July 1 -- a white Chevy Tahoe (around a 2000 model), a purple Dodge Challenger, a mid-2000 white Ford Escape and early-2000 silver Buick Regal. Police were unable to read license plates in the video footage, Downey said.
Two days later, between 11:30 p.m. and midnight, two black males "mechanically altered the fuel pump to bypass electronic systems" and pumped 55 gallons of 89-octane midgrade gas into three different vehicles, Downey said. The theft totaled $234.08.
He described the vehicles as a 1997-2003 Chevy Malibu with a dark, possibly black exterior; a 1997-2003 Lexus RX300 with a dark, possibly black exterior and a 1992-1999 Chevy Tahoe.
He said the descriptions of the two men were similar to those on July 1: medium-built black males weighing around 140-170 pounds. One man wore a red shirt, dark pants and dark shoes and was about 5' 9''. The other wore a white shirt, dark pants and white shoes.
Downey said there were "fresh tool marks" on the fuel pump on July 3, indicating use of a screwdriver or similar tool to tamper with the pump.
Neither thefts were discovered until days later when the manager of the Valero station conducted a fuel report and found a discrepancy, Downey said. He then reviewed surveillance videos and saw that at the time of the faulty transactions, there were men "messing around" with the fuel pump.
Police ask anyone who may have witnessed or have any knowledge of the incidents to contact the Palo Alto Police Department by calling the tip line at 650-329-2190 or sending an anonymous texting or email to email@example.com.