HOUSTON (FOX 26) - A surveillance camera shows looters wading through floodwaters, stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of merchandise from a Houston store. It happened just after Harvey struck the Houston area. For hours in knee-deep floodwater, accused criminals are seen taking $400,000 in products from a northeast Houston beauty supply shop.
The surveillance video is unreal. A sport utility vehicle arrives at Supreme Beauty Supply, clearly driven through floodwater, and ten men get out. They smash their way into the store with a sledgehammer. Once inside, the accused crooks grab everything they can, mostly packs of expensive fake hair and they load it all up in the large SUV.
"Because they filled the truck up with so much merchandise, they have to climb on top of the truck," says Houston Police Department Lieutenant Cathy Richards, who is referring to the portion of the surveillance video where eight men cling to the top and sides of the SUV because so much stolen merchandise is inside it. "You can see as the truck is leaving, the water is still really high."
All of this is going on just after Harvey affected Houston and many people were securing boats to help rescue their neighbors. Houston police say a woman who was helping with high water rescues had her boat stolen. Police say the thieves ended up on surveillance video in the boat and stealing from the beauty supply store.
"They stole the boat so they could go looting," says Lt Richards. "They go into the store and steal stuff and load up stuff in the boat."
Several of the people captured on video actually look right into the lens. One woman did not even bother to cover her face. Some thieves were so brazen that they posted about looting the store on social media.
"They were blasting out (on social media) everything is free and so people were taking advantage of it at that point," explains Lt. Richards.
Twenty-five people are recorded inside the shop in floodwater stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars in goods from the store. Of them, one person, 32-year-old Markeith Whiting, has been identified as one of the looters. Investigators say he was one of the men in the boat.
"He has a warrant right now for his arrest," adds Lt. Richards. "We are looking for him." Lt. Richards also says they recovered guns along with drugs stolen from a pharmacy, stolen liquor and 58 packs of stolen hair from Whiting's home. Detectives say Whiting was selling the stolen hair and liquor out of his house.
Crime Stoppers of Houston is offering a $5,000 reward for information that leads to the arrest of the people involved.
Eighteen people have actually been arrested for looting since Harvey hit. There is an enhanced punishment of up to 20 years in prison for anyone found guilty of looting during a natural disaster.