Museum intruders use getaway boat on Buffalo Bayou, escape into storm drain, HPD says

Courtney Fischer Image
Thursday, March 18, 2021
EMBED <>More Videos

The details are too wild to comprehend, but HPD had a boat chase on the bayou to deal with overnight with two suspected museum burglars.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- A pair of River Oaks museum intruders are still on the run after they were chased by police Tuesday night as they boarded a boat on Buffalo Bayou and disappeared into the city's storm drain system.

Police received report of a break-in at the Bayou Bend Museum, a branch of the Museum of Fine Arts Houston, around 6:15 p.m. Tuesday, Houston police say.

According to MFAH, the intruders, a man and a woman, entered the museum through a grate to a basement window.

Police didn't have detailed descriptions of the man and woman, except that both had tattoos on their arms.

Upon entry, the museum alarm sounded and a security guard responded, chasing the suspects out the front door and through the woods, museum officials said.

WATCH: HPD searches for the suspects who took off in a boat on Buffalo Bayou

When police responded to the museum, they spotted the pair running out of the building.

Police say the suspects appeared to have a motor boat waiting for them in Buffalo Bayou, which borders the museum.

They took off down the bayou, but when they spotted officers on the Shepherd Drive bridge, the suspects turned around and went in the opposite direction, according to Lt. Larry Crowson.

WATCH: How did museum intruders use a getaway boat?

Officers were also staged on the West Loop feeder road bridge over the bayou, but before the suspects got that far, police say they hid with the boat somewhere near the Brenner's on the Bayou restaurant in a culvert.

HPD launched a helicopter to search for the intruders and called dive teams out.

When the HPD dive team spotted the two suspects with the boat in the culvert, the pair jumped down a storm drain and ran off, according to police.

Officers followed them in, but ultimately couldn't find the suspects.

During the storm drain search, HPD lost cell phone and radio connection with a couple of officers, who were then considered missing. The officers were eventually located unharmed.

"Once they had been in there a while, we got concerned because we couldn't make contact with them. We requested the fire department to come out to help us locate the officers," Crowson said. "The fire department arrived and we located the officers. They are OK. They got out of the tunnel."

According to MFAH, no works of art were damaged and nothing was removed from the premises. They are examining camera footage and are in contact with the police.

HPD recovered the boat, and hope it will provide clues about the suspects.

The Bayou Bend Collection and Gardens sits on 14 acres, straddling both sides of Buffalo Bayou.

MFAH sent the following statement regarding the incident:

"On March 16 at approximately 6:45 p.m., two intruders (a man and a woman) entered Bayou Bend, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston's home for American decorative arts and paintings, through a grate to a basement window on the north terrace. The burglar alarm sounded and our security guard responded. After the intruders escaped through the front door on the south faade, the security guard chased them through the woods. The intruders had a motor boat waiting on the bayou. The Houston Police found the boat after the suspects escaped through a culvert.No one was harmed, and no works of art were damaged. Nothing was removed from the premises. We have examined camera footage and are in contact with the police."

EDIT: Houston police originally reported that the attempted burglary happened at the Rienzi House Museum, which is also a branch of MFAH, but museum officials later corrected that the break-in occurred at Bayou Bend. Both museums are located in the same area off Buffalo Bayou.

Follow Courtney Fischer on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Follow TJ Parker on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.