Aspen police on Thursday arrested a man they are calling a “person of interest” in three recent thefts, including the armed robbery on Tuesday of the Theatre Aspen concession stand and two purse snatchings from the outdoor dining areas of downtown core restaurants.
Yuri Ognacevic, 38, turned himself in at about 10:30 p.m. at the Aspen Police Department headquarters, after officers had made contact with him earlier in the evening, according to a Friday morning press release.
Ognacevic was part of a group of a dozen local teenagers implicated in a string of armed robberies that shook the community in 1999. He was sentenced to four years in prison for his role in an armed robbery of the Clark’s grocery store where the perpetrators made off with nearly $22,000 in cash.
He is now facing two counts of theft from a person, each a class 5 felony; one count of theft, a class 1 misdemeanor; and aggravated robbery, a class 3 felony. He was paid a $15,000 cash bond and was released Friday morning from the Pitkin County Jail. Ognacevic is due back in court on Aug. 5 at 10:30 a.m.
Aspen police on Thursday announced they are looking for Ognacevic, 38, in connection with the recent string of string of robberies. On Wednesday, officers released security camera footage showing a man they believed to be the suspect riding past the Rubey Park Transit Center on a bicycle, asking for the public’s help in identifying the suspect.
An acquaintance of Ognacevic called police to report that they believed they recognized the man, according to an affidavit laying out the cause for Ognacevic’s arrest on file at the Pitkin County Courthouse. The person contacted another friend who knows Ognacevic, who confirmed the suspicion about the identity of the man in the photos and videos distributed by Aspen police.
The person who called in said she saw Ognacevic riding a bicycle in town and had a short conversation with him just before a purse snatching that was reported Tuesday evening.
“[The person] said [they] found it odd that he was riding a bike in Aspen because she believed he lived in Snowmass and that he was typically ‘anti-social’ and didn’t like to be in town on a busy night with a lot of people in town,” the arrest affidavit says.
After viewing the video, the witness told police they “felt certain it was Yuri by the way he held his head and walked like he was ‘always hiding,’” the affidavit says.
An Aspen police officer also recognized the individual on the video as Ognacevic, according to the affidavit. The officer knows Ognacevic, who graduated from Aspen High School, as a “personal acquaintance,” according to the document.
"The members of the police department would like to thank the community for their support in assisting us in quickly resolving this case," Chief Richard Pryor said in the press release. "The relationships we have in the community are invaluable in all the work we do, but especially so in a high profile case such as this."
Crimes of opportunity
On July 3, a man riding a bicycle stole a purse that was hanging off the back of a chair used by a diner eating outside at Kirby Ice House. On Tuesday, a man on a bike wearing a baseball cap and flannel shirt stole another purse from an outdoor diner at Casa Tua. Both restaurants are on Aspen’s walking malls.
According to the affidavit, the first stolen purse contained about $200 cash. The second purse had just $25, but the total estimated loss between the value of the purse itself and a Louis Vuitton wallet inside, was $1,020, according to the victim.
About 45 minutes after Tuesday’s purse-snatching incident, a man with a bandana covering part of his face and wielding what the victims described as a small knife held up the concession stand outside the Theatre Aspen tent during a performance of “Guys and Dolls.” No one was injured.
In addition to the identification tips called in from the public, Aspen police noted that the video footage from Rubey Park showed the suspect wearing a “FitBit” style wrist watch. A photo available for public viewing on Ognacevic’s Facebook page shows him wearing a similar watch, the police affidavit says.
A profile on the LinkedIn website says that Ognaceviv has worked for Aspen Skiing Co. on ski patrol.
“Although an arrest has been made, this is still an open and active investigation,” the press release says. “The Aspen Police will continue to follow leads and collect evidence in this case. Additional details will not be made public at this time in an effort to maintain the integrity of the investigation.”