John William Rodenborn. Photo via Santa Ana Police Department
John William Rodenborn. Photo via Santa Ana Police Department

A transient who claimed he was Tarzan and was found swinging from trees at the Santa Ana Zoo was charged Monday with swiping a cell phone at a Costa Mesa art gallery two days later and committing a gas station holdup several months ago.

John William Rodenborn, 37, was arrested Thursday evening, hours after he allegedly swiped an iPhone from Dax Gallery, according to Roxi Fyad of the Orange County District Attorney’s Office.

Rodenborn is accused of robbing a Chevron gas station in Westminster about 4:30 a.m. on April 2, Fyad said. He allegedly threatened an employee at gunpoint to give him cash, she said, adding that a cigarette butt left at the crime scene was used to make a DNA match to Rodenborn.

He made headlines last week for the Tuesday zoo incident, but it was unclear if any related charges had been filed. Fyad said she had no record of the zoo case being presented to prosecutors, but a Santa Ana police spokesman said the evidence had been turned over to the District Attorney’s Office.

Rodenborn has multiple prior convictions for burglary and a vehicle theft, Fyad said.

For the gas station robbery alone, he faces up to 46 years to life in prison if convicted, she said.

On Thursday, Rodenborn was tracked down Thursday to Bristol Street and Santa Ana Avenue with an application that helps iPhone owners locate their device, according to Costa Mesa police Lt. Victor Bakkila.

The victim called police about 5:20 p.m. to tell investigators the location of the phone, as shown on the app. When officers got to the location, they spotted Rodenborn in a flood-control channel, Bakkila said.

Rodenborn hopped a fence into a Newport Beach neighborhood to evade his pursuers, and then later hid in a garage, Bakkila said. The homeowner called police, and when officers arrived, Rosenborn climbed into a nearby apartment complex garage, where he was taken into custody, Bakkila said.

Police were called at 10:37 a.m. Tuesday about a shirtless man plastered in mud “climbing into trees and attempting to get into the exhibits” at the Santa Ana Zoo, according to Santa Ana police Cpl. Anthony Bertagna.

A zookeeper called 911 when he saw the man had climbed up about 20 feet in a tree at the bird exhibit, Bertagna said. The suspect, proclaiming he was Tarzan, then tried to crawl into a monkey exhibit, the corporal said.

He had fled by the time police arrived, but was taken into custody nearby a short time later.

Rodenborn was also arrested July 26 on suspicion of being under the influence of narcotics but was released from jail the next day, according to Orange County jail records.

— City News Service

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