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Catching a Car Thief

January 23, 2020, 4:00 PM HST
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Officer Chance Lunsford has been selected as the Aloha Exchange Club’s December 2019 Officer of the Month. PC: HPD

On Nov. 17, 2019, just after midnight, Officer Chance Lunsford was in the area of a Kurtistown service station when he observed a silver Nissan Frontier pickup pull off Highway 11 and park near the gas pumps.

As the male driver exited the truck and walked into the convenience store, Officer Lunsford immediately recognized him as a 34-year-old with an outstanding warrant. Officer Lunsford had also previously received a tip that the truck being operated by this individual was stolen and repainted a different color.

Officer Lunsford approached the pickup, noting that although the truck was painted silver there were areas within the interior of the cab and fender wells that displayed the original factory color of red. Officer Lunsford conducted a check with dispatch on the license plate attached to the vehicle as well as the visible VIN and these came back to a silver 2004 Nissan Frontier pickup registered to a female party whom Lunsford knew to be the suspect’s mother.

The suspect was subsequently arrested for the outstanding $300 warrant, however, Officer Lunsford still suspicious of the truck, conducted a “hot sheet” check and discovered that a red 2004 Nissan Frontier pickup had been reported as stolen on Nov. 1, 2019, from a parking lot on Kalanianaole Street in Hilo. Included in the description of the stolen vehicle was mention of a sticker within the vehicle, which was a match with what Officer Lunsford observed inside the cab of the truck at the service station. The Nissan was recovered and towed as evidence as Officer Lunsford continued his investigation.

Officer Lunsford obtained assistance from another Puna patrolman who had previous experience from a temporary assignment on the Special Enforcement Unit. A search warrant was drafted and served on the pickup and as a result, Officer Lunsford was successful in locating another VIN, which confirmed the truck was the one stolen earlier that month from a Hilo parking lot.

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Upon conferring with prosecutors, the 34-year-old suspect was later charged with the offense of unauthorized control of a propelled vehicle, habitual property crimes, possession of confidential information and driving without a license. Bail was initially set at $31,000, in addition to the $300 outstanding warrant.

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Officer Lunsford’s actions and sustained exceptional dedication to his profession demonstrate his commitment to the Hawaiʻi Police Department Core Values of Integrity, Professionalism, Compassion, Teamwork, and Community Satisfaction.

Officer Lunsford, a 4-year police veteran, has been selected as the Aloha Exchange Club’s December 2019 Officer of the Month. Officer Lunsford is being selected for this honor based upon his latest example demonstrating exceptional proactive police presence and street smarts in linking a car thief to a stolen vehicle.

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