Three teens were arrested early Wednesday morning after all three allegedly admitted that a number of vehicle parts in and mounted to the vehicle they were riding in were stolen.
According to Conway Police Department public information officer Chris Harris, officers Jason Cameron and Jason Davis noticed a 1998 Chevrolet pickup in the area of Independence and Donaghey avenues while investigating reports of suspicious activity there.
A combination of the vehicle’s "very slow speed" and a defective license plate illumination light provided probable cause to initiate a traffic stop, and as Cameron was getting out of his patrol car to approach the vehicle, dispatch informed him that the suspect vehicle matched the description of the pickup.
Three men were in the truck, and one of them told Cameron that he didn’t have an ID. This person, later identified as 18-year-old Jeremy M. Griffin of 12202 Melissa Lane, Jacksonville (though his occupation is listed in an incident report as a Conway student), consented to a search of his person and a number of screws were found in his pocket.
As Cameron and Davis continued to question the suspects, at least two of them "informed me that they had gone to an address in the area of Sturgis Road and First Crossing (referring to the first Union Pacific railroad crossing between Sturgis Road and Highway 365 — an area north of Mayflower just west of Lake Conway) and ... had taken a starter and tail lights off of the vehicle in Mayflower and came back to Conway. ... They stated that once they made it back to Conway they were riding around looking for more tail lights to steal. They each told me that they attempted several times to steal the tail lights off several vehicles in the Independence (Avenue) area but were unable to do so ... (because) they were not able to get the tailgates open on the trucks because they were frozen shut."
A vehicle tail light unit and starter motor were found in the bed of the pickup, and other officers were able to find some pickup trucks in the area that seemed to have had their tail lights tampered with.
Cameron and Davis were advised by the on-duty patrol sergeant to arrest Griffin and the other two suspects, identified in the report as Austin Joe Brannon of 1919 Robins St., Conway, and Preston Aaron Schafer of 10 Stevens Road, Conway, both 18, all on suspicion of felony theft by receiving, possession of a instrument of crime and criminal trespass.
"Once we were at the PD, I started talking to them about what property was stolen from where," Cameron states in his report. "Schafer, Griffin and Brannon said that they, along with a fourth suspect, went to the house near Sturgis and First Crossing just after dark, entered a fence, and stole several items from a vehicle on the lot. They stated some of the items were taken to Brannon’s residence at 1919 Robins St. Brannon stated that a roll bar was in front of his residence. They also informed me that a Chevrolet grill had been installed in Griffin’s truck ... parked in front of Brannon’s residence."
Also, Brannon volunteered at the scene of the traffic stop that the tail lights in the vehicle the three were riding in had been stolen in January from a pickup on Faulkner Street.
The three also volunteered while being questioned at the PD that a fourth suspect was involved in the theft from the area north of Mayflower. This suspect, also an 18-year-old Conway man, was identified and was questioned by phone, according to Cameron’s report, and "admitted to going to Mayflower to steal the items off the truck... (and) that he was with Brannon on the Faulkner Street address where they stole the lights off of the truck.
"These officers did an exceptional job in locating and arresting these suspects," Harris said. "The investigative work of these officers has allowed our department to solve numerous crimes and very likely prevent several more."
(Staff writer Joe Lamb can be reached at 505-1238 or by E-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Send us your news at www.thecabin.net/submit.)