LOS ANGELES -- Let's say you're a burglar, and you chop a hole in the roof of a liquor store, jump down to the floor and then suddenly realize you forgot something: an escape route.
According to police, Robert W. Laughton of Reseda was faced with just that situation yesterday.
His solution was to telephone 911, convince the operator he was not joking, light up a cigarette and open a can of warm beer while he waited for help to arrive, said Los Angeles police Sgt. Roger Ferguson.
"Is that something? A burglar who calls the police?" said Sgt. Ferguson, who couldn't recall anything like it in his 24 years on the force.
Police said that Laughton chopped through the roof and went into an air duct of Rick's Liquor store on Saticoy Street in Reseda at 3:15 a.m. Sunday. The store has a metal door and gates.
The 23-year-old Laughton was jailed later in the day on suspicion of burglary in the Los Angeles Police Department's West Valley lockup, Sgt. Ferguson said.
Duane Jaffe, the store owner who police rousted out of bed to open the metal gates and door, said he found the burglary astonishing -- especially since two other burglars in the past two years used virtually the same method to get in, and also failed to get out.
One of the other burglars was discovered by employees. In an incident just two months ago, the second burglar was surrounded by patrons of a nearby bar acting on a tip from a passer-by. Mr. Jaffe said both were caught and convicted.
But only Mr. Laughton called police, he said.