Woman Drives Stolen Police Car to Tampa McDonald's, Police Say
The suspect allegedly hopped into the idling police cruiser in St. Petersburg and drove off.
A 22-year-old woman allegedly hopped behind the wheel of an idling St. Petersburg police car Saturday night, backed it into another cruiser, and sped off before the officer noticed it.
St. Petersburg Police report that about 15 minutes later Officer Andrew Bailey, who had been handling an unrelated domestic dispute on 62nd Avenue South, discovered his marked police car gone.
The suspect was arrested and the cruiser recovered a short later at a McDonald's parking lot on Kennedy Boulevard in Tampa, police said.
Vanessa Brooks is charged with vehicle burglary, auto theft and leaving the scene of a traffic crash. Other charges may be pending against her, according to police.
Brooks was arrested by Tampa Police at the scene, after she allegedly got out of the stolen police car while it was in gear and tried to run away, according to investigators. The car crashed into a tree.
Authorities investigating the incident said the information is still preliminary. But they offered the following description of what took place:
St. Petersburg Police Officers Andrew Bailey and Doug Dilla responded at 9:27 p.m. Saturday night to a call about a domestic dispute at 980 62 Ave. South.
Officer Bailey arrived first and noticed a heated argument taking place in the courtyard of an apartment building.
He left his police cruiser idling to talk with the people involved in the domestic dispute. The car keys were in the ignition, and the engine was running.
Officer Dilla arrived moments later and parked behind Bailey's cruiser. He turned off his car and did not leave his car keys in the ignition, police said.
As the two officers were handling the domestic call, Brooks happened to run by the police cruisers after allegedly stealing a cell phone, in an unrelated incident. She allegedly was being pursued by the victim of the theft, police said.
According to police, Brooks jumped into Bailey's police cruiser, backed it up
into Dilla's cruiser, and then drove away.
The officers did not see the theft.
At about 9:41 p.m., the officers finished the domestic quarrel call and discovered that Bailey's cruiser was missing and Dilla's car was damaged.
They alerted other police units in the area, including the Florida Highway Patrol and the Tampa Police Department.
At about 9:58 p.m. Saturday, Tampa Police saw the cruiser in the McDonald's Restaurant parking lot, at 1600 Kennedy Blvd.
Brooks ran from the vehicle and was arrested by Tampa Police.
She apparently left the transmission in gear before running away, and the marked police cruiser backed itself into a tree on the parking lot.
Officers are still assessing the charges against Vanessa Brooks.