Denver church burglary suspect, Mark Johnson, arrested -- suspected in string of church break-ins

Johnson arrested in western Colorado

DENVER - A 47-year-old man who is a suspect in a series of church break-ins in southeast Denver has been arrested in western Colorado, Denver police said Wednesday.

Mark Douglas Johnson was arrested Tuesday night in the town of Craig, said Craig Police Chief Walt Vanatta.

Mesa County officials alerted police that a man wanted on two arrest warrants might be driving a car with stolen license plates in Craig, Vanatta told 7NEWS.

Craig officers found the car parked with no one in it and kept it under surveillance, Vanatta said. When officers saw a man get in the car and start to drive away, officers moved in and pulled the car over.

Police found Johnson behind the wheel and learned the car was stolen, the chief said. Officers said they found a meth pipe in Johnson's possession.

Johnson is being held in the Moffat County Jail on a Denver warrant for burglary along with possession of dangerous drugs and drug paraphernalia, receiving stolen property, driving on a suspended license and a warrant out of El Paso County for failure to appear in court.

Denver Police believe Johnson is the burglary suspect captured on a surveillance camera on the afternoon of March 21 inside the Korean Christian Church at 1495 S. University Blvd. The church was occupied and open for church business during the theft.

Police said the burglar stole a bass amplifier from the church.

The man can be seen on surveillance video, covering his face with a piece of foam.

"He used the foam to cover the camera and then turned it," David Lee, the church's education director, told 7NEWS Reporter Jaclyn Allen.

That might have worked, Lee said, if there weren't other cameras throughout the church that captured clear images of the thief's face.

Another camera shows the man walking down the hall with the youth group's bass amplifier in his hand.

Since 7NEWS reported on the church break-in, Lee said someone donated an amplifier to the Korean Christian Church.

"She wanted to help us after she saw the story," Lee said.

The suspect observed in the church was a white man, about 5-foot-7 inches to 5-foot-9 inches tall, with short, dark hair and a medium build. He was wearing dark pants, dark shoes, and a light colored shirt. He had numerous tattoos on his forearms.

Police said Johnson may also be responsible for several burglaries of churches in southeast Denver where sound equipment was stolen.

"It's in a very short period of time, multiple crimes with the same m.o., targeting churches," Denver Police spokesman Sonny Jackson told 7NEWS.

According to police, these are the churches in District Three hit by burglars since the beginning of the year: Higher Ground Christian, St. Vincent de Paul, Holy Protection Church, Calvary Temple, Platte Park and Korean Christian Church.

"In these cases, we've seen everything stolen from iPods to computers, and in some cases the burglar broke into the cash box," Jackson said. "The detectives strongly believe it could be one individual, and if we can identify him from the video, we may be able to determine if he was involved in the other burglaries."

Johnson has a Colorado criminal history that spans three decades. It includes arrests for burglary, receiving stolen property, motor vehicle theft, drug possession, domestic violence, sexual assault on a child, escape, theft, forgery and parole violation, according to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation database. 

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