(STEUBEN CO.) – Indiana State Troopers patrolling on the I-80 Toll Road Thursday afternoon stopped to lend a helping hand to a stranded motorist. What started out as a simple tire change, ended up resulting in the arrest of a suspected car thief and the recovery of a stolen vehicle.
On December 12th at approximately 2:30 p.m., Indiana State Troopers Craig Woodcox and Zarek Finley stopped to assist a stranded motorist on the I-80 Toll Road near the 147mm (north of Angola). When Trooper Woodcox initially pulled up, he found a man standing next to a tan Toyota Corolla tending to a flat tire. The man identified himself with a New York identification card as 20-year-old Joshua Anthony Lewis-Brown, from Rochester, New York.
Brown advised Trooper Woodcox that he was unable to change the tire and was in need of a tow truck.
Trooper Woodcox was preparing to oblige Brown in his request, however, the fictitious homemade paper license plate “DJ39RK” (handwritten in crayon on a grocery bag) raised obvious suspicion and led to further investigation. Running a check of the Toyota’s Vehicle Identification Number (VIN), Woodcox discovered the Toyota had been reported as stolen out of State College, Pennsylvania the day prior.
The Troopers’ also found that Brown had never been licensed to operate a motor vehicle in any state, and was currently on probation for Grand Larceny.
When the roadside investigation concluded, Trooper Finley placed Brown under arrest without incident and transported him to the Steuben County Jail. Brown was booked into custody and charged with possession of stolen property (Level 5 felony), and operating without ever obtaining a license (Level C misdemeanor).
Brown will be held on these Indiana charges, and then will face extradition back to Pennsylvania pending their local charges.
Trooper Finley was able to confirm the circumstances surrounding the theft of the vehicle, as reported by Pennsylvania authorities. He learned that the vehicle had been left unattended and unlocked with the engine running outside of a local grocery store by the proper owner. The owner, wanting to keep his car warming in the cold weather temperatures, had run into making a quick purchase, only to find his car missing upon return.
In light of this particular circumstance, the Indiana State Police would remind all motorists that leaving your vehicle unattended with the engine running and doors unlocked, is never a good idea. Auto theft is often a common occurrence during the winter months. This is especially true in our urban neighborhoods where we find a higher concentration of residents wanting to warm their cars unattended in the frigid early morning hours prior to the morning commute.