The story below details real events experienced by Release Point contributor Theresa Garcia.
My phone buzzed, and I checked it nervously. Staring back up at me were the words, "It will work. We're going to get him. Text us when his car arrives."
I was looking around for a black SUV while sitting on the patio of the grocery store – the place the thief and I had agreed the transaction would take place.
The previous night, my boyfriend's truck had been broken into. Just before we left our house to go to a disc golf tournament the following morning, we noticed that a box full of 40 old and treasured discs that had been in the truck was gone.
My boyfriend, Sheldon, was devastated when he realized the box had been taken. It had contained discs from his earliest tournaments, his first Amateur Worlds, and even one signed by David Feldberg, his favorite pro growing up.
Though Sheldon believed there was no way to get the discs back, I offered to check Facebook marketplace, Craigslist, and the local Play It Again Sports. He responded with doubts, stating how the thief would be smarter than that and how he or she was likely cities away with them by now.
Despite his doubts, we told the owner of the local Dynamic Discs store, sent a message in a disc golf group chat, and told a few others who would be at the tournament.
Before we knew it, it seemed like every disc golfer around had heard about the stolen discs. People we had never met were messaging us, asking us what happened, and checking in to see if there were any updates. It seemed like the local disc golf community was ready to rise as one to help right a wrong done to one of its own.
After I dropped Sheldon off at the tournament, I quickly browsed Facebook marketplace. To my surprise, the exact box filled with the missing discs was there, put up for sale just an hour before. I knew I had to work quickly; the price listed was, aptly, a steal to anyone who knew the value of the discs.
I contacted the police department immediately. They met with me and arranged the game plan: I would contact the seller, determine a time to meet to "buy" the discs, and they would show up to catch him. It was a classic sting operation.
As I waited on the patio, fear set in.
The seller had stolen from us less than 12 hours before. Would he recognize my car? Would he be dangerous? There was no telling but there was also no time to change our plan. The set-up was in place and all I could do was wait for the thief to arrive.
When I saw the black SUV, I sent the alert text to the officer and kept my fingers crossed he would show up quickly. The thief came up to me, and I had to come up with ways to keep our interaction going until the police arrived. I asked questions about the discs, trying to make sure I still seemed interested but not fully convinced about buying them.
When the police came to the scene, they couldn't immediately make an arrest due to lack of evidence. They had to pretend they were concerned about his car being parked in front of the storefront.
Ironically, the thief apologized to me and asked the police, "Can I please finish my sale before we do this?"
As that sort of ease with the officers suggests, the man was pretty familiar with talking to police. The local authorities knew his name as well as how he seemed to be constantly around stolen items and had a trunk full of televisions and phones.
They'd been looking for clear evidence that he'd committed a crime for some time, but they probably didn't expect it to come in the form of disc golf discs.
After an hour and a half of questioning, which included the thief showing an inability to recall a single disc while I could reel off their names and stamps from memory, the man was arrested on the spot. I was allowed to take the discs home immediately.
When I got back, my boyfriend was thrilled, surprised, and relieved to see his beloved discs again. However, there was still one dark cloud in the suddenly bright blue sky: The thief had crossed out all of the names on the discs to hide ownership, including the signature from Feldberg.
This all happened in early December of 2020, and throughout the month we were asked to tell and retell the story many times by friends and people we ran into on the course. Each time we did, it was plain to me that Sheldon was still disappointed about the loss of Feldberg's signature.
Hoping to help in some way, I reached out to the local disc golf community seeking a signed disc to make up for the one the thief had defaced. Doing more than I would have ever thought to ask for, a local disc golfer, Daniel Moose, contacted Feldberg and explained the situation.
Feldberg, too, went above and beyond. He found, signed, and mailed a disc of the exact mold as Sheldon's old one – of which only 110 were ever made!
The look on Sheldon's face Christmas morning when he saw the disc made all the craziness, the police set-up, and the search for a replacement more than worth it. He had so many questions as to how I got my hands on his new disc, but we both knew it came down to the incredible nature of the disc golf community.