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A stolen pet-grooming van went out of control and crashed through the entrance of a San Jose smoke shop early this morning, a police spokesman said. The 16-foot van, owned by Just 4 Paws Mobile Spa, was stolen from a driveway on Rebel Way several hours before it smashed into the Up In Smoke shop at 1711 Branham Lane at about 6 a.m., San Jose police Sgt. Jason Dwyer said. Three males were seen fleeing the area after the crash, he said.
Just 4 Paws owner Nancy Sargent said the van was taken from her driveway between 1:30 a.m. and 2 a.m. She was alerted to the theft by a neighbor who heard the beeping sound the van makes when it backs up. “He said he saw two people in it,” Sargent said. “They drove across my front lawn and my neighbor’s front lawn.
” Sargent said she keeps a backup set of keys in the van and that might account for how the suspects started the engine. Dwyer said it appears the suspects drove around and drank beer inside the stolen van. At some point a tire popped, but they continued to drive on three tires, he said. Witnesses saw sparks coming from the bare wheel as the van drove near state Highway 85 and Branham Lane, Dwyer said. Moments later, the van hit a cement barrier, became airborne and crashed into the store, he said.
The vehicle smashed through the front windows and a steel security gate, and came to rest completely inside the business, Dwyer said. He said investigators do not believe the suspects were trying to rob the store by breaking in with the van, Dwyer said. “It appears to be accidental,” Dwyer said. “We pulled quite a bit of alcohol from it — beers. It appeared they were partying inside it.
” The impact ruptured sprinkler system water pipes, and water poured onto the floor. Later this morning, the “Up” part of the wooden store sign reading “Up In Smoke” was broken off. Inside, employees were removing T-shirts, skateboards and jars of incense that were strewn on the floor, and were sweeping up glass and removing water from the floor. Mark Edwards, a business associate of the storeowner, said the items damaged included a model of a Volkswagen bus fashioned out of glass.
In the back of the business, rows of glass water pipes survived the impact, he said. “This is really tragic. I can’t believe this,” Edwards said. The manager at the Nickel City video arcade next door said the crash damaged a party room at the business. His surveillance camera recorded the impact at 6:06 a.m., the manager said. Sargent saw the damage to the van after it was towed away from the store. “The whole top is demolished and it’s missing one tire,” she said.
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