Two HSU Students Arrested, Massive Sign Cache Seized – October 5, 2011

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

This stolen sign is what led to the arrest of Humboldt State students Jordan “JK” Keeling and Robert Espinoza. See the galleries below for more. KLH | Eye

Kevin L. Hoover

Eye Editor

CALIFORNIA AVENUE – For months, all manner of signs and banners from throughout Arcata – particularly Northtown – as well as the Humboldt State campus, have been disappearing from their installed locations and, as it turns out, migrating toward a house on lower California Avenue.

Residing at the house are Jordan Richard “JK” Keeling, from Milpitas, and Robert Andrew Espinoza, from Los Angeles, both 20-year-old Humboldt State students.

Weekend before last, they had a big party, bedazzling attendees with walls plastered with pilfered placards. And banners.

And road signs. And door numbers. Even restaurant fixtures. And other odds and ends, including a stolen football helmet.

Virtually any type of semi-permanent or better sign that could be pried from its moorings or simply plopped in a pocket was proudly presented at the party.

One of the more elaborate signs – arguably the centerpiece – was a $1,500 job torn from the upper wall of Big Pete’s pizzeria in Northtown.

“They must have climbed up on the roof to get it,” said Big Pete’s owner Pete Ciotti, of whoever took the sign. “They had to break the holder and slide it out.”

When it disappeared in April, Ciotti reported the theft to Arcata Police. It wasn’t until the weekend wingding, though, that the vanished pizza sign was spotted in the wild – at the house occupied by Keeling and Espinoza.

The hosts weren’t just oblivious to the simple statistical likelihood of someone connected to one of the many small-town businesses whose signs adorned the walls being in the crowd, they openly boasted of the thefts to people they didn’t know, according to Ciotti.

“They were all, ‘Yeah, we steal signs, me and my homey. That’s what we do,’” he said. Degrees of separation in a small town being what they are, a friend of Ciotti’s at the party listened to the reckless braggadocio, took a cell phone picture of the filched furnishings and then passed it along.

Monday, Arcata Police were in the loop. Early Tuesday morning, Oct. 4, they were in Keeling and Espinoza’s house.

Officers located nearly 50 suspected stolen signs and other text-bearing items inside the residence. Recovered signs appear to be the property of local businesses, schools, state, federal and local governments. Additional suspected stolen property in the residence included road pylons, gas station price numbers and an orange-painted newspaper rack.

Keeling and Espinoza were arrested and booked into the Humboldt County Correctional Facility on suspicion of possession of stolen property.

Police haven’t documented which items are stolen and which may have been obtained legally. Some could have been retrieved from dumpsters during remodeling projects, though others are warped at their mounting points, as though they were forcibly wrenched free without use of tools.

Possession of the Big Pete’s sign alone pushes the matter past the $400 threshold and into the felony zone.

Keeling and Espinoza’s house was one place in our polarized world where small local businesses and corporate giants dwelled in harmony.

Fast-food powerhouses McDonald’s, Burger King, Subway, KFC and Jack In The Box compete for visual attention with signs from Arcata’s own Morning Star clothing boutique  and Arcata Pizza & Deli. That business was represented by a small, plastic stand-up sign from one of its tables advertising its hours and phone number.

The collection, while eclectic,  seems conceptually ambivalent, even amorphous and suggestive of random opportunity, if not some sort of persistent compulsion or maybe just simple kleptomania.

Now resting in the APD evidence locker, next to small mountains of cannabis grow equipment from other pending cases, are multiple road signs warning of hazards like detours, an open trench and loose gravel in unknown locations. For some reason, there were five copies of a sign directing traffic around an unknown boulevard.

Others specify locations. One green sign is from L.K. Wood Court. A brown one is from Mad River County Park, and offers directions to parking and restrooms.

The mix includes a few door signs. One is from the Green & Gold Room in HSU’s Founders Hall. Another iconic public restroom sign was found, appropriately enough, on the suspects’ bathroom door, according to APD Det. Sgt. Todd Dokweiler. Other signs seem way out of place. In a town full of bicyclists, signs warning of open trenches and loose gravel might have been more useful in their original locations. Another warns to keep out of an unknown archery range.

Three large plastic numbers of the type used in backlit gas station price signs were present, spelling out “420.” Even a few decidedly non-stoney HSU parking lot banners found their way into the collection. Other banners tout the sort of dining fare – Burger King and KFC – that might appeal to young men on the go.

A few of the signs were modified with edgy witticisms. A “STOP” sign had been augmented with marking pen to read “CAN’T STOP.” A “SPEED 15” sign was altered to read “SPEED YES PLEASE 15 HITS.” A Denny’s flyer affixed to a handheld stop sign had read, “America’s diner is always open,” but was changed to read, “JK’s diner is always open.”

Also among the items confiscated were table umbrellas emblazoned with Coca-Cola logos and a Humboldt State Lumberjacks football helmet. HSU spokesman Paul Mann said the helmet was reported stolen during the big Sept. 8 game televised on CBS.

“The whole house was littered with these signs,” Dokweiler said. The collection even spilled out onto the front porch, he said, with other pieces “scattered about.”

Dokweiler guessed that the Northtown emphasis is because that neighborhood is located at the mid-point between downtown and the suspects’ residence off L.K. Wood Boulevard. He theorized that the two may have paused to add to their collection while walking home from Plaza night spots.

Besides the physical evidence, APD is basing its case on statements they say the suspects made to officers when the search warrant was served Tuesday morning. Dokweiler said the two immediately admitted to taking the signs, and with startling openness.

“If I woke up with cops in my bedroom, I wouldn’t be bragging about stealing things,” he said. That night, after a stretch in the Pink House, Keeling posted a three-word status update on his Facebook page: “straight compton wakeup.”

Ciotti said he was glad to be getting his stolen sign back, but that he wasn’t sure what he was going to do with it now that it has been replaced and the Northtown shop’s color scheme changed. He guessed he might use it inside or at the Eureka Big Pete’s.

Dokweiler said that in addition to the charges of possession of stolen property, grand theft charges could also be filed if police obtain evidence that the two committed the actual thefts.

Along with any criminal  penalties, Keeling and Espinoza could face discipline, including suspension from school, under Humboldt State’s Student Conduct Code.

Among listed punishable offenses are “theft of property or services from the University community, or misappropriation of University resources,” “unauthorized destruction, or damage to University property or other property in the University community,” and “any act chargeable as a violation of a federal, state, or local law that poses a substantial threat to the safety or well being of members of the University community, to property within the University community or poses a significant threat of disruption or interference with University operations.”

Penalties could include disciplinary probation, which allows continued class attendance; suspension from Humboldt State; suspension from the entire California State University system; or permanent expulsion. Community service could also be part of the punishment.

Mann confirmed that some of the signs are the property of Humboldt State. UPD Chief Lynne Soderberg is checking with campus Plant Operations to determine when the signs were stolen. She said any punishment the lads might undergo would be confidential under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). All the university could disclose is whether or not someone is a student at the university.

Neither Keeling nor Espinoza responded to Facebook messages seeking information.  Wednesday, following issuance of an Arcata Police press release and news stories in local media, Keeling’s Facebook page disappeared altogether, followed by Espinoza’s on Thursday.

Keeling isn’t done with social media, though, leaving his Twitter page public. On Thursday, Oct. 6, he posted, “too famous for facebook. hello again twitter.”

While the suspected sign swipage, subsequent publicity and Facebook sign-off appear to have offered a pivotal life lesson in cause and effect for a young man, Keeling’s Twitter feed documents what may be a previous brush with indulgence and insalubrious consequence.

An exuberant Sept. 26 tweet reads, “fuck bitches, get money, eat pizza. repeat as necessary.”

Four days later, a more melancholy-sounding update states, “Here we go again (@ Student Health Center).”




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48 Responses to “Two HSU Students Arrested, Massive Sign Cache Seized – October 5, 2011”

  1. Lydia

    The theft of the “Danger/Archery Range/Keep Out” and stop signs is deeply sociopathic.

  2. Pete

    What a couple of juvenile creeps. GET A JOB! Or at least do something thats productive. They are probably fom families that also have NO clue how to be a decent person!

  3. Domino 21

    I would hope that they get tossed out of school and be required to payback any aid or scholarships. Send them back to Mommy and let her figure out what to do with them. That fat felony will keep them out of the military as well.

  4. MArk Stone

    Jordan is a rich kid. his daddy pays for everything. He has a brand new car, one of the first in the country, thanks to daddy… and he crashed it….loser….he drinks his really thinks his friends are “friends.” This isn’t like being on drugs and going into rehab. You’re a real loser to steal like this. There’s no rehab…you’re a thief. In a small town like this, he should probably leave. HSU is definitely kicking him out. He shut down his facebook. I guess the comment he made must’ve made daddy mad.

  5. anonymous

    @ mark stone… seem….upset. kids an only child and doesn’t have to work a day in his life thanks to his daddy. and he got a new one after he crashed the old one, so no more love stains. I think someones jelly 😀

  6. Mitch

    At last, a pair of Darwin Award candidates everyone can get behind.

  7. Snickerdoodles

    D00d – do they know what happened to all the car batteries?


    Damn what a fucking idiot. Too bad he got his boy locked up too for some bullshit. What a cool dude.

  9. annonymous

    first of all of you guys commenting are all dumb asses! just because a dumb ass does this kind of crap doesn’t mean that the parents are like them! I strongly i disagree with what they did but i also strongly disagree with PETE saying that “they are probably from families who have no clue how to be a decent person”. By any chance do you see their families up here with them? Living in their dorm or apartment? i don’t think so. SO THE NEXT TIME YOUR GOING TO CALL SOMEONE AN IDIOT MAKE SURE YOU DON’T SOUND LIKE ONE YOURSELF FIRST! as for these guys, i’ve seen them around and thats who they are, but now they will be paying the consequences!

  10. your ≠ you’re

  11. Mark Sailors


  12. Arcata Student

    Good for whoever called the police and reported the signs.

    That’s A BUNCH of signs. I’m a bit stunned.

  13. anomymous

    What a guy, he has SO MANY SIGNS my mind is blown. I hope he gets expelled from HSU and gets punished within the court system, he’s earned it. Especially with the major theft from Pig Pete’s, which is a great establishment.

  14. quitthath8n

    Holy shit thats a lot of hate. everyone on here likes to talk like they know exactly what happened. I don’t know any more than the next guy but i think its common decency to not talk all kinds of shit (Especially super personal) when you don’t know half of the real story.

  15. Well, why don’t you fill us in, in the name of common decency? But if you don’t know any more than anyone else, how do you know there is more to the story?

  16. Ian Ray

    Kevin, q-gibberish meant the anonymous comments about parents.

  17. My question remains, if q-gib doesn’t know any more than this unidentified “next guy,” and where x = undisclosed information, how can he/she quantify x as “half of the real story?”

    Too many undefined variables.

  18. some guy

    Ya know….there is so much more to the story that people don’t know…. and when it does come out, you’ll realize this is somewhat of a misunderstanding. This article is one sided, slanted, horrible reporting by the Arcata Eye..again. (I’ll be surprised if they let this comment stand)

  19. Maybe if JK or Bob would return our messages, it would be less one-sided and horrible, eh?

    This “other side of the story” seems to be a big secret. Why not clue us all in right here?

  20. Mark Sailors


  21. It’s a genius strategy. Don’t talk to the reporter who tries to get your info, then whinge about one-sided reporting. Keep any exonerating information from police, too, making inevitable charges and a court date.

    Next their attorneys will attempt to charge at an hourly rate for press statements. That’s actually happened.

  22. Ian Ray

    If you have credible information to report, newspaper reporters are willing to conceal your identity. When reports say “our sources wished o remain anonymous because they were not authorized to speak with the press”, that doesn’t mean the sources posted an anonymous Internet comment.

    If you feel the need to gossip, there are multiple forums that thrive on fictional accounts.

  23. We’re certainly willing to talk on background and then check and confirm the information via other means. Again, of these commenters have more information about the signs, they ought to share it so that the full picture can come out.

    We go to press Monday night, so they basically have all day today to help make sure the story that appears in print isn’t “one-sided.”

  24. RangerX

    OK, this seems reasonably simple. These kids had thousands of dollars worth of stolen signs in their possession, hence they were in possession of stolen property. What more is there to the story? Did the stolen sign fairy sneak into their house in the middle of the night?

  25. Well, no one has been found guilty of anything at this point. Maybe there is some exonerating or context-giving piece of information we haven’t heard yet. If so, we’d love to report it.

    If Some Guy knows “so much more to the story,” why is he keeping it to himself?

  26. Well, Some Guy, you managed to let two days go by without dishing on all that undisclosed information that would have shown what a big misunderstanding the sign situation is.

    Now the one-sided story is going to come out with its horrible slant firmly in place, and it’ll be your fault.

  27. ludge

    Well. Didn’t you do anything similar in your lost and nearly forgotten youth?

    The damage is temporary and easily remedied.

    If not, you are a typically repressed tea-bagger who does unspeakable things in private and never own up to your perversions!

    Move to San Francisco, Baggers!

  28. Ian Ray

    “Ludge”, by not stealing signs, one believes in a contemporary anti-tax political ideology? I suppose parallels could be drawn between the IRS and sign theft, but that is a pretty big stretch.

  29. Ian Ray

    I see you may have meant the more explicit definition of that term.

  30. Aw c’mon, Ian. There’s SUCH a obvious link there and it has nothing to do with desperate rationalization. NOTHING AT ALL, do you hear me?

    Anyone who doesn’t like small businesses being ripped off or public safety warning signs being taken away is clearly a far right-wing reactionary. I, for one, am shocked and disappointed to find this out about you. And me too, I guess.

  31. Ian Ray

    Kevin, when someone stole my sign and left graffiti on my fence, it did briefly cross my mind to hold a political rally.

  32. I wonder about, say, a bicyclist who rode into an open trench at night because the warning sign had been taken away by some party-boys. As they lie dazed and broken in the hole in the road (assuming they were still conscious), what might the cyclist’s political thoughts be?

  33. A_Rational_Human

    First of all most of the people commenting on this board are ANIMALS! I’m deeply ashamed to live in the same city as you cold hearted people! These HSU students are NOT BAD PEOPLE NOR ARE THERE FAMILIES and they didn’t mean to hurt anyone, nor are they guilty of anything before a trial!! (We live in America remember?) For anyone else to say otherwise is just plain wrong…The Arcataeye should be ASHAMED of themselves as well for reporting on such a ONE SIDED STORY..quitthath8n and anonymous poster are absolutely correct..The real bad people I see on this page are the people spewing hate on the internet to feel better about themselves (what a shock!)

  34. Since you’re rational, you’ll be able to understand that any one-sidedness has everything to do with these two cherubic innocents’ failure to respond when we asked them for their side. They can do so at any time, but haven’t.

  35. A_Rational_Human

    What disturbs me even more then the hateful posts is your unrelenting desire to find “the other side of the story” to further damage these kids lives! It really doesn’t take a genius to figure out why no one wants to tell you anything so get a life Kevpod and focus on bigger news stories and mind your own business creep!

  36. That’s not particularly rational. Whatever happened to truth in advertising?

    But I am glad that there’s nothing hateful about your comments. There is that.

    The “kids” actions might have something to do with the damage done to their lives, don’tcha think?

    To the small businesses who were ripped off, and the people exposed to danger from missing public safety signs, this is a big story, and it is everyone’s business.

  37. A_Rational_Human

    “Whatever happened to truth in advertising?”

    I ask the same question to the Arcataeye.

    “The “kids” actions might have something to do with the damage done to their lives, don’tcha think?”

    No I believe it’s called having a rebellious albeit not very well thought out moment. I am sure many readers who grew up in the 1960-70’s can relate to a degree. Seems like you really do enjoy victimizing these young men for a crime that they haven’t been tried for yet don’t you?

    “To the small businesses who were ripped off, and the people exposed to danger from missing public safety signs, this is a big story, and it is everyone’s business.”

    I do feel bad for the businesses affected and anyone who was “injured” however I truly do think that your statement above is unnecessarily and artificially making this story a much bigger deal then it really is, especially when you say things like “people exposed to danger from missing public safety signs.” Regardless, for you to say this is a big story makes you sound delusional and the only reason this article was created is because a classless newspaper decided to put up a smear campaign against two young men who you obviously know nothing about. Accessing there facebook and twitter pages and spamming them into submission is just low.

  38. “not very well thought out moment”

    Moment? Whoever took all those signs committed systematic theft of dozens of signs on a felony scale over a considerable period of time.

    “Accessing there facebook and twitter pages and spamming them into submission is just low.”

    It’s “their,” not “there.”

    Their Facebook and Twitter pages are/were public sources, which was their decision. The things we reported were what they said freely for anyone with a computer to read.

    “Seems like you really do enjoy victimizing these young men”

    I see. By describing the charges against them and cataloguing the stolen property found in their home.

    By your highly rational logic, these guys’ reputations are suffering not from their alleged actions, but the newspaper reporting the allegations and evidence. This is nothing new. Misguided apologists often throw up a lot of dust to take the focus off those who may be responsible, or as you refer to them, “victims.” In your case, with highly courageous anonymity.

  39. A_Rational_Human

    OK maybe more like a rebellious phase then a moment. Again they have not been proven guilty nor should they be assumed so much unless they are charged(again we live in America)END OF QUESTION…By the way you are great at spinning what other people say to make there arguments seem less valid bravo. Anyways just thought i would share my opinions to bring another view into the equation..thanks for not being overly critical about my thoughts..

  40. “By the way you are great at spinning what other people say to make there arguments seem less valid bravo.”

    When you start out with such marvels of rational wisdom as “get a life” and “creep,” it isn’t much of a challenge.

    And again, it’s “their,” not “there.”

  41. stewbeef

    Okay, first things first. The people who stole these signs were, in my opinion, pathetic losers. They should not be in Arcata, let alone HSU. On a slight tangent, if they steal signs from a town, shouldn’t we just kick them out of Arcata? If we just throw them out of school, they’ll still steal stuff after they get out of jail. I’ve found that people who actually brag about stealing stuff (kind of a stupid idea, don’t you think?) don’t learn, because those people are morons.

    However, I think it’s despicable to assume it’s the parents’ fault. A parent can try to influence their kids all they want, but if the child is sociopathic, they will be sociopathic. Being a crazy idiot is not genetic, people. Stop pretending as if it is.

  42. First, no one has been convicted of anything. Maybe it’s all a big misunderstanding! R i g h h h h t t t t …

    I’m not sure how you could legally throw someone out of town. My guess is that the normal criminal justice ordeal would be enough for a person who isn’t inherently malevolent to get the message. And if they are, they’re just going to get in more trouble.

    Arcata is pretty damn good at catching vandals.

  43. anonymous

    funny thing is, after Jordan got caught stealing all those signs by the officers, he went on a trip to Oregon and got caught shoplifting a vitamin water. HAHAHAHAHA!

  44. Where did that happen? I’d like to verify it.

  45. Joe

    I don’t have a phone currently and Humboldt Clothing doesn’t have an e-mail address posted on their website. If anyone can contact Humboldt Clothing, I believe this kid also has two very valuable water pipes that were stolen from their store a while back.

  46. Simon

    Innocent until proven guilty… go and F…k off about your comments

  47. Well, they both pled guilty. So now it’s no longer alleged. They are thieves, by their own admission.

    Case 11-2633 involving the stolen signs has the following disposition:

    · Jordan Keeling—Guilty plea for possession of stolen property

    · Robert Espinoza—Guilty plea for possession of stolen property


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