The poster had a photo of a young woman and an older man who had apparently stolen a silver 2008 Ford Crown Victoria with the Georgia tag ACP4569 from the Walmart parking lot on Deans Bridge Road.
But one look at the photo of the vehicle, and it was suddenly clear to most people that the stolen vehicle was actually a law enforcement officer’s unmarked patrol car.
It turns out, Cpl. Aaron C. Phillips of the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office was dispatched to the Deans Bridge Road’s Walmart on Sunday evening in reference to a motor vehicle theft.
Upon arrival, Phillips discovered that the “unsecured vehicle” of Sgt. Steven Bell of the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office had been stolen around 8:30 p.m.
Word on the street is that Bell left the keys to his unmarked patrol car inside the vehicle on a busy Sunday night at Walmart.
There’s also a rumor that he not only left the keys in the car, but the vehicle was still running.
(We can only hope there’s more to the story that will explain why Bell left his vehicle wide open.)
But that open invitation led to 28-year-old Megan Murphy jumping into the driver’s seat of the unmarked patrol car and speeding off.
Shortly after, Richmond County dispatch was contacted by North Augusta Public Safety and advised that they were in pursuit of the stolen vehicle.
Fortunately, North Augusta Public Safety Officers were able to stop the vehicle and arrest the unknown suspect later identified as Murphy.
By 11:30 p.m. Sunday, the unmarked patrol vehicle was recovered at the 900 block of Laurens Street in North Augusta, and Murphy admitted to North Augusta officers that she took the vehicle for “unknown reasons from the Walmart but had intentions on returning the vehicle.”
Sure, she did.
“Oh, officer, I was going to return the car. I just needed to borrow it to pick up my sick grandma.”
Tell it to the judge.
Along with the charges of theft by taking against Murphy, 49-year-old Johnny Eugene Hinson also was charged with “theft by receiving,” according to a statement released by Sgt. Kimberly Lee of the Richmond County Sheriff’s Internal Affairs and Public Information Office.
But let’s get real for a minute. What were people thinking?
It’s a miracle that no weapons or sheriff’s equipment were taken from the vehicle.
Needless to say, a lot of people didn’t have their heads screwed on straight last Sunday night.
First, why in the world did Bell leave his unmarked patrol car so completely vulnerable? What would have happened if a child walked by and decided to climb on in?
Or a curious teenager without a license who was just interested in taking the car for a joy ride?
People could have easily been killed.
Sure. Most folks probably hope that citizens respect a law enforcement vehicle and know not to touch it, but clearly that’s not always the case.
And how about the potential of weapons or expensive computer equipment being stolen from his vehicle?
It’s a scary thought.
An officer should know to secure his vehicle because it can be dangerous and easily used as a powerful weapon.
But you also have to consider how dumb a person has to be to steal an unmarked police car.
Did Murphy really think she was going to get very far? It’s a police car.
The minute she climbed into the driver’s seat to steal the vehicle, she should have wisely jumped right back out because it’s almost impossible to get away with stealing a patrol car.
Sure, she managed to cross the state line and made it to North Augusta, but it was only a matter of time before she was caught and arrested.
Clearly, Murphy is no Smokey and the Bandit.
Even Sheriff Buford T. Justice would have easily tracked her down.
“Give me a Diablo sandwich, a Dr Pepper, and make it quick, I’m in a damn hurry!” — Sheriff Buford T. Justice