A Southern California veteran is devastated after his beloved golf cart was stolen from his Riverside County home on Christmas Eve.

The victim, 73-year-old Dave Stotler, is a Vietnam War veteran who has lived at the Crane Lakeside Mobile Home Park in Lake Elsinore for 17 years.

He had been recovering from COVID-19 and pneumonia for a month at home when the thieves struck.

“I think it’s the way of the world now, seems like,” Stotler tells KTLA’s Shelby Nelson. “Everybody just taking whatever they want and don’t care.”

Surveillance video of the theft was released by the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department. Residents say the thieves easily enter the neighborhood due to a lack of security gates and protection from the public.

  • Dave Stotler's golf cart in a photo provided by the veteran.
  • Suspect images provided by the Riverside County Sheriff's Department.
  • Dave Stotler outside of his home. (KTLA)
  • Dave Stotler's home
  • The local boat launch Stotler enjoys driving his golf cart to. (KTLA)
  • Dave Stotler outside of his home. (KTLA)

Stotler says his golf cart was stolen on Christmas Eve when he was sound asleep. His neighbor, however, saw it all unfold around 4 a.m.

“My husband gets up to go to work early, so I was outside and I saw his golf cart backing up,” recalled Rachael Dzura, Stotler’s neighbor. “Then he backed up and started driving toward the street and I’m like, ‘Well that’s not normal.’ Usually, they go down to the lake with the dogs and he [the suspect] got up to Grand Avenue and made a right and I ran inside and got my husband and we called the police.”

Stotler has been getting over COVID-19 for the past month at home. Once recovered, Stotler said he planned to resume his favorite activity of driving his golf cart around with his dog and loved ones.

“That’s his favorite thing to do,” said Dzura. “He gets in his golf cart in our beautiful park and goes down to the boat launch and sits there and talks with the boys.”

It’s a simple thing, but it brought Stotler plenty of joy.

“I feel real bad,” said Stotler. “Now I got to worry about, when I get well, I got to get another cart.”

It’s unclear how many people were involved, but authorities are hoping the public can help identify the suspects and return the golf cart to its rightful owner.

“He’s a hard worker,” said Dzura. “Nice guy, can count on him for anything. Just will do anything for you, a great man. You never know what you’re taking from someone. This is his livelihood.”

As for Stotler, he’s frustrated about the theft and just wants justice. His message to the thieves:

“You’re really a clown, you really need to take a look inside yourself.”