Jacksonville man arrested in van theft

Man drove stolen van by officers as victim described vehicle

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A Jacksonville man couldn't believe his stolen van was found in the most unlikely place. The way it turned up meant an arrest for the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office.

Ronnie Parker, 33, faces several charges on suspicion of possessing the stolen work equipment and trying to get away from police.

Steve Underwood said he had just about given up hope when suddenly the van appeared while he was giving a few police officers a description of it.

Underwood was sifting through the garbage left inside a van he once used for his lawn mowing business.

"Here's the beer that they left me; a nice Bud Light. It was still cold, the person was obviously drinking while they were doing it," said Underwood. "The whole steering column is just ripped to shreds. It took me five minutes to figure out how to start it after the police turned it back over."

Underwood said before it was stolen he kept the van inside a locked chain-linked fence, along with his very expensive lawn care equipment and trailer.

After searching for a week, Underwood said he was eating lunch one day and saw it drive by. He called police but couldn't chase it down. The very next day, he saw a few cops hanging out on the corner of Lenox and Lane avenues, so he pulled over to ask them about it.

"As I was describing the van, it literally drove directly passed in front of us on Lenox Avenue," said Underwood. "I said, 'There it is right there.' Luckily, there were three cops already there and they managed to chase him down and retrieve the van."

Jacksonville Sheriff's Office booking photo of Ronnie Parker
Jacksonville Sheriff's Office booking photo of Ronnie Parker

Officers arrested Parker (pictured in JSO booking photo, right), but not without a chase.

"Your wife was saying the van is the least of your worries. The other stuff that was attached to the van, all of the lawn equipment is really where the money was at," said News4Jax's Heather Leigh.

"Yup, that's truly the main thing that I'm concerned about. It was my livelihood," Underwood said. "They took all of my tools, everything I owned as far as landscaping and I haven't had much luck putting anything back together, and I'm borderline going out of business."