Bel Air man charged in theft at Edgewood 7-Eleven

A Bel Air man, who was charged Saturday with stealing money from the 7-Eleven store on Gateway Drive in Edgewood, was apprehended with the aid of the Harford County Sheriff's Office's new helicopter, the agency said.

The helicopter, Eagle 1, which had been assisting Maryland State Police troopers from the JFK Barrack on I-95, was on its way back to its Forest Hill base when help was requested.

Eagle 1 was back in the Edgewood area in two minutes and it followed the theft suspect from the air until deputies caught up with him on the ground, Cristie Kahler, spokesperson for the Sheriff's Office, said Tuesday.

While it's not the first arrest deputies have made aided by Eagle 1, which went into service April 17, it was among the first, Kahler said.

The sheriff's office acquired the Bell OH-58 helicopter, which was federal surplus property, and created the agency's Aviation Unit, which consists of eight tactical flight officers, who will spearhead missions as pilots man the aircraft. Among the helicopter's first missions was to track someone under investigation for stolen goods.

On Saturday, Eagle 1 was used to track Christopher Lee Vananzo, 28, of the 200 block of Temple Drive, who allegedly went behind the counter of the convenience store and emptied the register while the manager was in another room, according to a news release from the Sheriff's Office.

After allegedly taking the cash, around 8 p.m., Vananzo jumped back over the counter and ran out of the store.

Eagle 1 helped sheriff's deputies spot Vananzo from the air as he headed toward Woodbridge Center Way, according to the news release. The tactical flight officers followed Vananzo from the air, guiding ground officers to his location. Once they found him, deputies chased Vananzo briefly before catching up to him.

Vananzo was taken into custody without incident. The suspected stolen property was recovered and returned to the owner of the 7-Eleven, according to the release.

No injuries were reported.

Vananzo was taken to the Harford County Detention Center, where he continued to be held Tuesday on $2,500 bail.

The Sheriff's Office is preparing a summary detailing the first two months of the helicopter's use, Kahler said.

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