Pekin police may have solved an area rash of new vehicle wheel thefts from auto dealerships when they arrested one man early Wednesday. A second remained sought.


The missing man likely “slipped through the line” of a police perimeter as pre-dawn fog surrounded the Twin Lakes area, where both suspects tried to hide, said Police Chief John Dossey.


He and a department detective said it’s not yet known whether that suspect went into the lake, but a pair of shoes were found on its shores.


A drone from the Pekin Fire Department and a hover boat from the Fondulac Park District were deployed to search the shores and water of the southern lake with no results.


The arrested suspect, Brian Mims, 56, of Missouri, was spotted hiding along the lake’s shore.


When officers commanded him to surrender, “He jumped in” the lake, but quickly emerged, said Detective Seth Ranney. “That water was cold.”


Police “throughout the area,” including Pekin and East Peoria, have received reports since early spring of thefts of wheels and tires from late-model vehicles parked at auto dealerships, Dossey said.  Further investigation may reveal whether the two suspects were responsible for those crimes, Dossey said.


Mims’ arrest and the search for his alleged accomplice began after 4 a.m., when a man coming to work at an auto dealership at North Eighth Street and Edgewater Drive saw two men crouching near a row of SUV vehicles. Dossey declined to identify the dealership Wednesday.


The men fled in a vehicle, reported stolen in Missouri, when they realized they’d been spotted, Dossey said. The employee followed them, reporting their location in a 911 call, until they abandoned their vehicle and fled on foot.


Officers rushed to the area and, with the aid of North Pekin police, set up a perimeter in the Twin Lakes area north of Edgewater which produced Mims’ capture.
In the suspects’ abandoned vehicle, police found wheels from several new vehicles that had been reported stolen, Dossey said.


Police have no description of the missing suspect, Ranney said. The employee said he was wearing a black ski mask when the two were spotted at the auto dealership.
Mims was booked into jail on charges of burglary and felony theft. He’s expected to appear in bonding court later Wednesday.

Follow Michael Smothers at Twitter.com/msmotherspekin