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Cops: Empty gas tank foils burglar's escape

DACULA -- A Dacula man suspected in three gas station burglaries within hours of each other Friday apparently neglected to pilfer the businesses of their primary resource:

Gas.

Instead, authorities believe 41-year-old Micah James Mitchell had his thieving heart set on cigarettes and scratch-off lottery tickets. So intent, he allegedly drove his SUV through the front, glass doors of a BP station on Ga. Highway 211 in Barrow County in the wee hours of Friday morning.

An alarm went off at the closed business. Deputies arrived to find no suspects, no vehicles, but telltale pieces of a taillight and red paint on the smashed door frames.

A search of the area revealed an abandoned 2003 Ford Expedition on another highway a few miles away. It was red, with damage that matched evidence left at the BP station, said Barrow County Sheriff's Office spokesman Lt. Matt Guthas.

"Cigarettes and lottery tickets were plainly visible inside the vehicle," Guthas said.

Turns out Mitchell had run out of gas and was hoofing it down the highway. A Jackson County deputy spotted Mitchell and transported him back to the vehicle, where he was arrested, Guthas said.

But Mitchell's smash-and-grab exploits may not end there.

Barrow investigators are working with Gwinnett and Braselton police to determine if Mitchell had a hand in two similar incidents in Dacula and Braselton hours before the BP in Barrow County was hit, Guthas said.

Mitchell, meanwhile, remains at the Barrow County Detention Center, charged with smash and grab burglary, criminal damage to property second-degree and theft by taking.