SUNSET — A police patrol vehicle was stolen Sunday, and right under the officer’s nose. The suspect was later arrested, and the police department blames the incident on a mistake and an inadequate vehicle.
It all began when two men were arrested for residential burglary in Sunset. One suspect was secured in an officer's patrol car, and the other, 26-year-old Nathan Ward, was sitting on the curb.
“That car is equipped with a cage that will only hold one body,” Eborn said.
Ward didn't wait on the curb, though; he got up and ran. Police tracked him down an hour later and took him into custody again, but he wouldn’t stay there for long.
“He asked a favor of the officer,” Eborn said.
Ward wanted to tell his mom he'd been arrested; and when the officer stopped by Ward's home, he stepped away from the car.
That's when Ward wiggled his handcuffed hands in front of him, Eborn said, jumped into the front seat of the car and took off.
Four hours later, Ward ditched the vehicle near 26th Street and F Avenue in Ogden, Eborn said. He was arrested down the block in the area of 23rd Street and Wall Avenue.
As for the officer, an 18-year police veteran, “he knows where he went wrong,” Eborn said.
The Sunset Police Department has a policy in place: “Arrested persons should not be left unattended in the back seat of a patrol car. In the event it becomes necessary for the officer to exit the car and leave a person in the back seat, the window of the cage will be closed and locked, as well as the back doors of the patrol car.”
Eborn said the officer in question will be facing consequences for his mistake, but what those consequences are exactly hasn't been determined.
There was also a problem with the patrol vehicle: it can only fit one suspect inside because of its split cage, a feature which allows for a tall officer to move his seat back.
That split cage meant an opportunity for Ward to bolt, as his alleged accomplice had already taken the only caged seat.
The Sunset Police Department bought the single-cage vehicle and another similar one three years ago after a budget cut, Eborn said.
The chief said the department also has six patrol cars with full cages. There are only eight officers within the department, he said, and the department frequently operates with only one officer on duty.
On the rare occasion the sole officer has a vehicle with a partial cage and two suspects are arrested, “we’re limited to what we can do,” Eborn said.
The chief said his officers have never run into this problem before, and nd they won’t ever again.
“I can guarantee this will never happen again,” Eborn said.
The department’s plan now is to phase out the two single-cage patrol cars. Eborn said he will review with his officers why leaving a suspect alone is a bad idea.