JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A 23-year-old man was arrested Tuesday after police said he stole a Jacksonville Sheriff's Office cruiser and then called police, saying he saw the car being stolen.
Michael Planes is being held on $35,006 bond on charges of grand theft of police equipment and car theft.
According to the arrest report, Officer J.R. Livingood's cruiser was stolen from the King Food Store on Main Street, while Livingood was inside for about 25 minutes doing a property check with the store's owner.
Not long after, Planes called police to say he'd seen the car being stolen outside an apartment.
“This person called into police and said he witnessed a theft -- more than likely he's just trying to throw police off of his trail, so if he can say he actually saw it, then maybe he's thinking they won't look at him as a possible suspect,” News4Jax crime and safety expert Gil Smith said.
Officers found the cruiser parked between two buildings at the complex on Palm Lake Drive, just a half mile form the food store, and found a set of keys on the driver's side floorboard.
One of the keys was for the cruiser, but there was also what appeared to be a house key that was checked on Planes' apartment and opened the deadbolt on his door. Other keys on the ring were for a Chevrolet vehicle, and Planes routinely drives a Chevrolet, police said.
Planes was arrested without incident, and his wife gave police permission to search the apartment.
Inside the apartment, officers found a JSO issued rifle, loaded magazines, handcuffs, a JSO police jacket, a JSO issued tourniquet, a flashlight, JSO issued pens and a marker, a 32-ounce Yeti cup, and a Homeland Security police patch that had been taken from Livingood's cruiser, according to police.
“He had secondary weapons, maybe some of his own personal weapons or, depending where he was working with in the sheriff's office, he could have had some department-issued weapons. So it's good they were able to recover this before he tried to sell them somewhere,” Smith said.
The arrest report said Planes later confessed to stealing the cruiser and equipment.
Planes, who was appointed a public defender, will be in court again Dec. 28.
The report said the officer left the cruiser secured, but JSO officials were not able to clarify if that meant the keys were not in the vehicle.
According to JSO policy, cruisers are only to be left running if the car is locked (officers carry extra vehicle keys) and a police function is being performed.