A body shop worker accused of stealing Palm Springs police Chief Bryan Reyes’ patrol vehicle from the Cathedral City body shop where the ex-con worked and subsequently posing as a cop pleaded not guilty Wednesday charges related to the alleged theft and unlawful possession of firearms, ammunition and other prohibited items seized from his Indio home.
William Leon Menser, 26, is accused of taking Reyes’ SUV last November while it was undergoing body work repair at Rembrandt’s Paint and Body, then using the vehicle to attempt a traffic stop on a man in Cathedral City, according to an arrest warrant declaration.
Menser, who worked as an “estimator/manager” at the body shop, told investigators that he took the SUV home because he noticed the rear sensors were malfunctioning. He said he had planned to drive it to a Ford dealer “first thing the next morning,” but was able to fix the issue himself using his scanner tool, according to the declaration.
He later took the SUV to a car wash, a Starbucks and a gas station, where he said he pumped $10 worth of gas, and admitted using the SUV’s emergency lights to slow a driver who was speeding, according to the document.
On Jan. 4, investigators served a search warrant at his home, where they found guns and boxes of ammunition, according to the arrest warrant declaration. An airsoft replica of a 9mm Glock 17 — one of the most widely used law enforcement pistols — multiple magazines and boxes of ammunition and a Palm Springs Police Department baseball cap were found in the trunk of his car, according to the document.
In his home, officers also seized items typically used by law enforcement personnel, including a Taser, spike strip, collapsible baton, federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives badge and a Palm Springs Police Department citation book, “with several citations missing in it,” the declaration states. Investigators also found “a black Mossberg AR-15 style .22 caliber rifle” and “several hundred rounds of .22 rifle ammo,” according to the declaration.
The Palm Springs PD incident is not the first time that Menser has been accused of stealing a police vehicle, according to prosecutors. In 2014, Menser and a co-defendant were arrested for stealing a Glendale Police Department vehicle from the Orange County Sheriff’s Academy. He pleaded guilty later that year to car theft, grand theft auto and receiving stolen property.
Menser was arrested Jan. 4 near Monroe Street and Interstate 10 in Indio, one day after prosecutors filed embezzlement and officer impersonation charges against him. In April, prosecutors filed new charges against him, including being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition.
Menser is due back in court June 6 for a felony settlement conference.