Community reporters thwart SJ man’s attempt to steal car

SAN JACINTO — A man who first stripped and then stole a car in San Jacinto Saturday afternoon, April 13, was arrested after a trio of community reporters spotted the alleged suspect’s suspicious activity and called 911.

While waiting for officials to arrive, the three confronted the alleged thief, live-streaming their encounter with the man on social media. They continued filming as he then loaded his bike into the car’s trunk and drove away. The man later tried to flee from sheriff’s deputies who responded to the 911 call reporting the incident.


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After an investigation, deputies arrested Victor Didenko, 49. He was later booked into Cois Byrd Detention Center on suspicion of vehicle theft and driving with a suspended license, as well as other vehicle code violations and an outstanding warrant for failure to appear in court or a pay a fine. Jail records indicate Didenko has since been released, pending further investigation.

Last Saturday’s incident began around 1 p.m., when a trio of Hemet News community reporters happened to notice what they believed was suspicious activity happening in and around a car that was parked in the area of Ramona Expressway and Main St.

As they watched and filmed from a safe distance, the witnesses observed Didenko rummaging through a silver Honda coupe that was parked along the dirt shoulder of the road.

After filming the man stripping items of value from the car for several minutes, the witnesses approached and confronted Didenko about what he was doing inside the car.

Victor Didenko, 49, was arrested after concerned citizens spotted him stripping and then stealing a car in San Jacinto. Eddie George/Hemet News photo

In the video, in which Didenko can be seen going through the car looking for valuables, the alleged car thief first claimed the car was his before later claiming the car belonged to his boss. As the concerned citizens continued filming and called 911, Didenko then loaded his bicycle into the car’s trunk and drove away from the area.

While the witnesses followed the car thief and provided continuous updates to emergency dispatchers, Didenko first drove north and then south on Ramona Expressway, before eventually pulling into a Chevron gas station at the intersection of on Ramona Expressway and Florida Ave. He then casually walked away from the car and into a convenience store at the location.

Moments later, as the witnesses continued live-streaming video of the ongoing incident, several San Jacinto PD deputies converged on the gas station parking lot and began searching for Didenko, who was still inside the convenience store.

Seeing deputies approaching, Didenko exited the store and tried to flee on foot, directly into the path of deputies and a sheriff’s K-9. Deputies quickly took the man down at gunpoint and detained him for questioning about the incident.

During their subsequent investigation, deputies found the car’s ignition had been stripped and the vehicle’s radio and other items had been ripped from the car’s dashboard.

Based on their investigation, deputies ultimately arrested Didenko.

Several deputies and a sheriff’s K-9 swarmed on the gas station where Didenko allegedly drove a stolen car to. After trying to walk away from the scene, deputies took him into custody without incident. Eddie George/Hemet News photo

One of the arresting deputies later told Eddie George of Hemet News that the incident was the “easiest stolen car recovery and arrest ever,” and said he wished more citizens would get involved when they see something suspicious in their community. Deputies also requested a copy of the live-streamed video for evidence of the vehicle theft and Didenko’s involvement.

“It’s not called snitching,” George later said in a follow up video to the theft. “It’s called we’re tired of people stealing our (stuff).”

“People are sick and tired of all the criminals who think they can run our valley and do whatever they want,” George later told RCNS. “Plus, the police can’t be everywhere and can use every bit of help they can get.”

“It’s up to us, all of us, to remain vigilant if we want to make a difference in our community,” explained George. “If you see something, say something.”

Anyone with information about this incident and vehicle theft is encouraged to contact San Jacinto PD at (951) 654-2702. Callers can refer to incident file number I191030050 and can remain anonymous.

Click any image to open full-size gallery.

Eddie George/Hemet News live-stream video

Contact the writer:

Trevor Montgomery, 47, moved last year to the Intermountain area of Shasta County from Riverside County and runs Riverside County News Source and Shasta County News Source. Additionally, he writes for several other news organizations; including Riverside County based newspapers, Valley News, The Valley Chronicle, and Anza Valley Outlook; as well as Bonsall/Fallbrook Village News in San Diego County and Mountain Echo in Shasta County.

Trevor spent 10 years in the U.S. Army as an Orthopedic Specialist before joining the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department in 1998. He was medically retired after losing his leg, breaking his back, and suffering both spinal cord and brain injuries in an off-duty accident. (Click here to see segment of Discovery Channel documentary of Trevor’s accident.)

During his time with the sheriff’s department, Trevor worked at several different stations; including Robert Presley Detention Center, Southwest Station in Temecula, Hemet/Valle Vista Station, Ben Clark Public Safety Training Center, and Lake Elsinore Station; along with other locations.

Trevor’s assignments included Corrections, Patrol, DUI Enforcement, Boat and Personal Water-Craft based Lake Patrol, Off-Road Vehicle Enforcement, Problem Oriented Policing Team, and Personnel/Background Investigations. He finished his career while working as a Sex Crimes and Child Abuse Investigator and was a court-designated expert in child abuse and child sex-related crimes.

Trevor has been married for more than 28 years and was a foster parent to more than 60 children over 13 years. He is now an adoptive parent and his “fluid family” includes 13 children and 15 – but soon to be 16 – grandchildren.


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