Merced police are asking for the public's help in solving a recent burglary reported at the 15th Street office of Lao Family Community Inc. where thieves stole a safe containing $101,000 cash.
The incident was reported shortly before 10 p.m. Aug. 3 at the nonprofit's 855 W. 15th St. office. Lt. Andre Matthews said officers responded to the scene after a burglar alarm went off.
At least one witness went outside after hearing the alarm and dogs barking. Two men were seen running away from the building. They met another man, who was waiting at a van. Together, the trio put an object in the van and fled the scene, Matthews said.
Officers at the scene discovered the exterior glass doors had been unlocked, while an interior door had been forced open.
Some items in the building had been moved around by the thieves to make way for the safe, Matthews said, adding that several items of audio and video equipment in the office weren't stolen.
When asked whether the burglary could be an inside job, Matthews said detectives have "concerns" the thieves may have ties to the organization, although it hasn't been confirmed.
Houa Vang, the organization's executive director, couldn't be reached for comment at the Sun-Star's deadline Wednesday.
Matthews said the stolen cash was proceeds from Hmong New Year celebrations, collected over several years for the purpose of sponsoring cultural events.
No description of the suspects is available. Police said the Department of Justice is testing fingerprints and other evidence in the case.
The nonprofit organization was founded in 1981 to assist East Asian and Hmong refugees in Merced County and the region.
Police are asking witnesses or anyone with information about the burglary to call Detective Paul Johnson at (209) 388-7742 or the department's automated tip line at (209) 385-4725. Calls are kept confidential, and you can remain anonymous.
Reporter Victor A. Patton can be reached at (209) 385-2431 or firstname.lastname@example.org.