Looters targeting Southeast Austin neighborhood hit by flood

Neighborhoods across Central Texas are still cleaning up from the Halloween floods. One of the hardest hit is Thoroughbred Farms near Dry Creek.

"We got rescued through there after the water went down enough for them to come get us," says Willie Torres who lives on Citation Avenue.

Torres and the neighborhood are still mending their hearts.

"I've come here and cried several times," Torres says while he stares at the piles of his belongings strewn about his lawn. "I've picked up stuff out of the floor that was their graduation pictures and their yearbooks."

Decades of memories devoured in just minutes 16 days ago and now the unthinkable has happened.

"They took two refrigerators and a stove. They even took the food out of the refrigerator," Torres says.

Torres and his family are staying at a nearby hotel. He has posted signs around his property warning "trespassers to beware." "Sadly," he says, "we have to come here personally everyday to check on it, even to come stay here and keep someone on watch."

Torres, like many others in the neighborhood, is coming home to protect what's left. There's copper wires and other materials that when scrapped can add up to hundreds or maybe even thousands of dollars.

"It's enough that we lost everything," he says frustrated, "to get looted is kind of like just bad on top of bad."

The bad is what deputies found when they busted Freddie Carter and Pedro Velazquez last Wednesday. Their van parked on Ruidosa, an arrest warrant details the metal scraps found inside, metal scraps the pair picked up along the streets of Thoroughbred Farms. They include a wire coil from a stove belonging to a DPS Sargeant who lives in the neighborhood.

"A lot of them saying they have permission from the homeowner knowing darn right they don't," Torres says of the people who've come through daily since the storms.

Carter and Velazquez, according to their arrest warrants, admitted to police what they stole wasn't meant for the trash. Both were arrested and charged for metal theft, which is a state jail felony.

Torres is angry that outsiders are taking advantage of a community who is just trying to get by, one day at a time, "You have to just keep on praying," Torres says, vowing his spirit may be battered, but it's not broken, "you have to see a light at the end of the tunnel."

The Travis County Sheriff's office tells FOX 7 that this is the first theft reported in the neighborhood since the floods. Though residents say there have been more. Law enforcement is patrolling the area frequently, but the entrance to the community is not barricaded.

A meeting for the residents is planned for 9:00 on Tuesday morning at Commissioners Court. Security is one of the topics that could be covered.

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