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Caught On Camera: Man Who Left Dog to Die in Stolen Van Arrested

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The man who allegedly stole a minivan and left the family dog left inside to die has been arrested; It was the dog's owner who turned him in and it was all caught on camera.

A KCAL 9 reporter was interviewing the owner, Nayo Mateo, at the Weddington Golf and Tennis club in Studio City where the stolen vehicle had been abandoned. Unbelievably, Mateo saw the man sitting nearby and called police.

"I remembered his face, since I saw it in the pictures [police released]," said Mateo, even though the suspect was now clean-shaven.

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The image of the suspect had just been released the night before. (Photo courtesy of LAPD)
Police arrived, questioned the suspect, and took him into custody around 7:45 p.m., with news cameras capturing the whole thing.The suspect was later identified as 29-year-old Danny Frist, a familiar transient in the area.

Reporter Rachel Kim interviewed the man as he was being led off. She asked if he stole the van and he said "No." But she asked him if he had anything to do with the dog and he replied, "Yes." When asked if he saw a dog inside the vehicle, he said, "Yeah."

On August 17, Mateo had left the minivan running with the air conditioning on while he ran into a store to check on his wife and daughter. Sleeping inside was their beloved 10-year-old Labrador retriever, Maru. When he came back out, the van and dog were gone.

Unfortunately, when the van was found two days later, Maru was still inside. She had died from heat exhaustion. Mateo said the family is heartbroken over the loss of their dog, whom they'd had since she was a puppy. "We always called her our daughter," says Mateo, "She was my baby."

He had some words for the suspect as he was led away. "I told him that he is going to pay for what he did. Now that I know he's in the [police] car, I hope he's not going to hurt another dog, or another kid."

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Frist was booked on felony animal cruelty and grand theft charges.

Two animal welfare groups had offered rewards in the case: Mutt Match L.A. offered $2,000 and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals offered $5,000.

Anyone with information about the suspect is asked to call LAPD's Animal Cruelty Task Force at (213) 486-0450.