Santa Ana Zoo “Tarzan” John W. Rodenborn Faces Long Prison Stretch for 2 Serious Crimes

UPDATE NO. 2, AUG. 10, 6:37 P.M.: It turns out the “Tarzan” arrest at Santa Ana Zoo is the least of John William Rodenborn's worries, as he was charged today with two separate burglary and armed robbery cases that could send him to state prison for 55 years with convictions, according to prosecutors.


The 37-year-old out of Huntington Beach, is charged with one felony count of second degree robbery and one felony count of criminal threats, with a sentencing enhancement for the personal use of a firearm in a Westminster robbery. He is also charged with one felony count of second degree commercial burglary and one misdemeanor count of aggravated trespass of a dwelling in the Costa Mesa iPhone theft. Rodenborn has two prior strike convictions for residential burglary in 1999 and 2006, and three state prison priors for the 1999 and 2006 residential burglary, and a 2002 vehicle theft. A continued arraignment hearing is set for Aug. 18 in the Central Jail in Santa Ana. Rodenborn is accused of walking into a Chevron gas station convenience store on Beach Boulevard in Westminster around 4:30 a.m. on April 2 and asking the store clerk for cigarettes. But instead of just taking his smokes, he allegedly pulled out a gun and demanded money, threatening to shoot the clerk if he didn't comply, according to an Orange County District Attorney's office (OCDA) statement. Rodenborn is accused of taking the cash and fleeing the scene, leaving behind a used cigarette butt. It was DNA on that butt and video surveillance evidence that led to Rodenborn being connected to the armed robbery, which drew him $1 million bail and the possibility of 46 years to life in state prison. The iPhone theft and Rodenborn's capture is detailed in Update No. 1, but the OCDA statement discloses Dax Gallery was the business where the crime happened. His bail is $100,000 and he faces up to nine years in state prison in that case. No charges have been filed yet for the Santa Ana Zoo incident, according to the OCDA.

UPDATE NO. 1, AUG. 7, 11:22 A.M.: Two days after being arrested at Santa Ana Zoo for allegedly being methed up, claiming he was Tarzan and climbing bird and monkey exhibit trees, John William Rodenborn was popped for an iPhone theft from a Costa Mesa business, police said. A woman noticed her iPhone was missing from inside a closed business in the 2900 block of Randolph Avenue around 11 a.m. Thursday, checked her surveillance camera and saw a male intruder had entered a side door and taken her phone, according to Costa Mesa Police Lt. Victor Bakkila, who adds his officers took a report. The theft victim contacted police again at 5:20 p.m. because a phone location app indicated her iPhone was at Bristol Street and Santa Ana Avenue, Bakkila said. Responding officers saw a man in a flood control channel, and he fit the description of the fellow in the surveillance video, but he also saw cops coming and climbed over a fence into a Newport Beach neighborhood to escape, Bakkila said. The suspect hid in a garage, prompting the resident to contact police, and when officers entered the structure he fled again, climbing onto a nearby apartment complex's garages, Bakkila said. Officers finally cornered him in a dumpster area, took him into custody without incident and later identified him as Rodenborn. He now has charges of burglary and possession of stolen property to go along with the narcotics count from the zoo bust.

ORIGINAL POST, AUG. 6, 8:05 A.M.: “Me Tarzan, you sane.” OK, I don't know if the impaired soul who claimed to be the creation of Edgar Rice Burroughs actually said that to his captors at Santa Ana Zoo, but a 37-year-old fellow alleged to be blazing on meth did apparently go ape man there.

The Santa Ana Police Department identified him as transient John William Rodenborn, who was shirtless, plastered in mud and climbing trees at the zoo before police we called just before 10:40 a.m. Tuesday, Cpl. Anthony Bertagna said.

A zookeeper called around then when the fellow who claimed to be Tarzan climbed about 20 feet up a tree in the bird exhibit, said Bertagna, whose department directed the zoo folk to keep patrons away from the presumed nutter.

Rodenborn is accused of then trying to crawl into a monkey exhibit, but he had fled by the time officers arrived, according to Bertagna, who added the suspect was taken into custody a short time later.

City News Service, citing Orange County Jail records, reports Rodenborn was arrested July 26 on suspicion of being under the influence of narcotics but was released from lockup the next day.

And yes, the moon has been full lately.

Email: mc****@oc******.com. Twitter: @MatthewTCoker. Follow OC Weekly on Twitter @ocweekly or on Facebook!

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