A suspect broke into a Calabasas community center early Tuesday and smashed a vending machine, stealing food and sparking concerns the crime was committed by a rifle-toting burglar spotted in the area last week.
The latest burglary occurred about 3 a.m. at the Agoura Hills/Calabasas Community Center at 27040 Malibu Hills Road, according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. The culprit broke a glass door at the center to get inside.
"Detectives believe the same suspect, who is possibly involved in eight other burglaries, used a rock to break the front glass door," according to the sheriff's department.
Before Tuesday morning's break-in, the last burglary was Thursday in the 700 block of Malibu Canyon Road, according to the sheriff's department.
Prior to that, there was a Sept. 30 burglary at a commercial structure in the 26800 block of Mulholland Highway. In that case, surveillance video showed a man wearing what deputies called "tactical gear" and carrying a rifle. The suspect in that break-in also stole food, deputies said.
On Oct. 2, sheriff's officials conducted a large-scale manhunt in the area, but the suspect wasn't found. Some residents reported hearing gunfire that night.
On Saturday, a maintenance worker in the Tapia Park area about a mile south of the Malibu Creek State Park campground "encountered a person who matched the description of the armed commercial burglar," Sgt. Matthew Dunn of the Malibu/Lost Hills sheriff's station said.
Dunn said the man asked the park worker for a ride out of the canyon, "because he said there were so many police in the area."
The maintenance worker left and called deputies, prompting another massive search of the area on Saturday. Deputies combed Malibu Canyon for hours with the aid of three helicopters. The search was called off when darkness fell over the area.
Another burglary was reported on Sept. 24 in the 700 block of Malibu Canyon Road and the Agoura Hills/Calabasas Community Center was burglarized on July 27, according to the sheriff's department.
Other burglaries of which the same person is suspected occurred on March 8, 2017, in the 26800 block of Mulholland Highway; on Oct. 28, 2016, a few miles north of Malibu Creek State Park in Calabasas; and on Oct. 10, 2016, in the 26800 block of Dorothy Drive in an unincorporated area near Calabasas, the sheriff's department reported.
The break-ins and searches have heightened trepidation among residents who have been on edge following the June 22 shooting death of 35-year-old Irvine resident Tristan Beaudette, who was killed in his tent at Malibu Creek State Park, where he was camping with his two daughters.
Dunn said last week investigators had not linked any burglaries to the shooting, "but we certainly haven't ruled it out." He added that the suspect might be a transient living in the park.
Sheriff Jim McDonnell told reporters Tuesday he could not go into details of the investigation, but he recognized the concern being caused by the rash of criminal activity.
"There's been a number of issues people, I think, are aware of, recent shootings as well as burglaries in the area," McDonnell said. "We are working -- without getting into detail and jeopardizing any investigation -- we are aggressively working the situation. We have a lot of resources dedicated to it, and there's a lot of things that the public would not see going on that will ultimately be helpful in that. But to go beyond much of that at this point, much further than that, I think would not be wise."