Once more, my job is rarely boring. Yesterday was Friday, and like most Fridays, I spent the day rolling from one highway crisis to another. Crashes, Disabled Vehicles, and other miscellaneous problems had our drivers working tirelessly for most of the day

Around 2:30 PM, I received a call to move a vehicle to safety. Before I’d traveled the first mile, another driver called me and suggested that I wait for a second truck. I was told the situation was, ‘sketchy and possibly dangerous.” The words “stolen vehicle” hadn’t been used, but the tone was unmistakable.

So, with two CDOT [Colorado Department of Transportation] trucks controlling traffic, I parked in front of the disabled Subaru. Outside, leaning against the concrete barrier, were three people: two teenage boys and a young woman. The woman was obviously the driver. She had the keys in her hand. She had something else as well. A bad case of the [nervous and shitted about the situation]: her body language could not be missed. I knew immediately the car was stolen. So had the driver that had stopped initially to help. He called another driver and ran the VIN. The car was verified stolen.

Some of the CDOT drivers have the ability to reverse license plates and vehicle identification numbers [VIN]. I can do so at will, but I reserve such activities for abandoned vehicles. After finding abandoned cars on the Interstate; we tag them so the removal process can begin. If left unchecked, the highways would be littered with cars and trucks. Many of them are vandalized or burglarized within hours. When I find something that’s stolen [punched ignition ECT], I verify the information. We contact local law enforcement and send the vehicle to the impound for processing.

Right around the time I rolled up, the vehicle was being verified as reported stolen. Driver number three contacted law enforcement, and she asked me how I’d like to proceed. I responded immediately with, “let’s move everything from the highway and have the cops meet us at the drop.” It was settled; we would all meet at Denny’s! Yes, our dedicated drop for that particular highway exit was the local Denny’s Restaurant parking lot. The driver was nervous but still hadn’t figured out it was all over. I could see a spark igniting in the back of her mind, though. I wondered if she may flee.

I had the Subaru hooked up quickly. The Denny’s was only two miles away. I departed first, with the other two trucks and the passengers in the rear. Halfway to the exit, a police car with lights flashing passed us and took our exit. I could almost feel the tension in the truck behind me. The driver of the stolen car had to be scared. Within minutes we were pulling into parking lot. The scene was a little over the top. There were at least a dozen police officers and half as many cruisers.

As our small convoy pulled into the lot, I noticed something odd. The police weren’t paying much attention to us. In fact, they seemed preoccupied with another matter. A large man was sitting on the grass, handcuffed and obviously in custody.

I waited a few seconds and then climbed out of my truck. A few officers glanced my way, but nobody approached our CDOT trucks. It was as if . . . yes you guessed it . . . these particularly cops were not our particular cops. We had pulled into a completely different crime scene. Our police would take another five minutes to show up. In my haste to move everything off the highway, I arrived too quickly.

Long story short, the driver was arrested. The vehicle was impounded and probably returned to the owner. I found out later, the driver of the stolen car had been trying to get back into the Subaru. I suspect she had something else to hide—possibly drugs or who knows what.

This driver probably believes she went to jail because of a flat tire. Or, maybe she blames the driver that stopped to help her.  In reality, the chain of events probably began long before the highway, even before she stole the car.

Joseph Shanklin

July 17, 2021

4 thoughts on “From Flat Tires To Felony Theft

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