Boy overwhelmed when officer replace stolen mini police car
COLUMBUS, Ind. (AP) — A Taylorsville kindergartner who aspires to be a police officer was stunned when law enforcement stepped up to present him with a new mini police car to replace the original that was stolen.
Conner Burton, 5, had already been designated as a Bartholomew County Sheriff’s Department junior deputy, complete with hat and badge, before he was led to the department’s garage on a recent afternoon, where the shiny, brand new vehicle was waiting for him.
He was able to stammer out a shy “thank you,” while hanging back to look at the new car, while his mother, Brittnee Squibb, encouraged him to get in and try out all the features, which included a siren, radio and lights.
It didn’t take long before Conner, along with his younger brother Hunter, 1, were off to the parking lot to get the tires a little dirty and test the lights.
Asked how he felt, Conner responded, “Happy.”
That was in stark contrast to nearly two weeks earlier, when the stolen car left the youngster and his family emotionally reeling. Squibb said Conner cried himself to sleep the night the car was stolen.
The new vehicle came through the efforts of the Stinesville Police Department in Monroe County, northwest of Bloomington.
Officer Paul McGann said he heard about Conner’s car being stolen and it “hit close to home.”
“I have a little boy, and I felt that we needed to do something for this young man,” he said, as he watched Conner wheel the vehicle expertly around the sheriff’s department parking lot.
All 14 officers of the Stinesville department donated to buy a new car — at the same time the Bartholomew County Sheriff’s Department was taking up its own collection to buy a new car. The local Fraternal Order of Police was also working to get a new car for the boy.
In the end, Walmart learned that the Stinesville department wanted to replace Conner’s car and ended up giving the department a gift card to purchase it — essentially donating Conner’s new police car.
The surprise was organized by the Edinburgh Police Department, which worked with Bartholomew County Sheriff’s Department and Stinesville on the project, a plan that was carried out in secrecy for about a week as arrangements were completed to have Conner and his family visit the sheriff’s department in Columbus for a tour.
There has been a huge outpouring of support for the boy and his family about the theft of the toy police car, said sheriff’s department Detective Will Kinman, who was among the organizers working to buy the boy a new toy police car.
“The amount of calls was unbelievable — random people wanting to donate money or to donate a car,” Kinman said.
People began calling almost immediately after a front-page story appeared in the Republic on Aug. 24 about the theft, and Indianapolis television media picked up the narrative.
“The outpouring from all the officers has been amazing,” Edinburgh Police Chief David Mann said.
Conner’s car was taken Aug. 22 when he and his mother, along with his brother, were heading to the Circle K gas station at the corner of U.S. 31 and Tannehill Road in Taylorsville just after 8 p.m., with Conner driving his toy car with Hunter in the passenger seat.
They left the toy car on the sidewalk along with a gas can and were only in the store for about three minutes to get a snack, Squibb said. When they returned, the car, which had been a birthday gift from his grandmother, Vonda Pacek of Elizabethtown, was gone, along with the gas can. The car, valued at about $300 new, has not been located.
Conner was inconsolable after the toy was stolen, his mother said. He continued to ask his mother repeatedly whether deputies had found his car, which was not pristine. It had a broken red light and a dent in the front grill, making it identifiable.
Watching Conner receive the brand new car was wonderful, said the boys’ great grandmother, Devona Wiggins of Edinburgh.
“Oh, I can’t explain it,” she said. “I just don’t have the words. He was so heartbroken. You don’t know what this means to all of us,” Wiggins said.
Bartholomew County Sheriff Chief Deputy Chris Lane said that anytime someone is a victim of a crime, deputies hope to find a way to help. Since Conner was interested in becoming a police officer someday, a lot of people came together to try to bring a smile to his face.
But police officers were also smiling.
Lane said they had been touched with the huge outpouring of support from the community.
“We could have gotten 20 of these cars,” he said of all the people who wanted to help. He described the smile on Conner’s face as priceless.
Kinman said he was making sure that Conner got a car lock for the toy vehicle so that another theft would not occur.
“This is what I wanted,” Kinman said as he watched Conner accept the new vehicle.
When Conner thanked him, and shook the deputies’ hands, Kinman said, “You’re welcome, buddy.”
Conner was encouraged to back his new car up into Sheriff Matt Myers’ parking space, then posed for photos with the sign.
As the 5-year-old gave a thumbs-up to officers and then sped away into the rain puddles that covered the parking lot, Lane yelled, “Hey, you’ve got a certificate, badge and a hat. We’re expecting you to report to work at midnight.”
Source: The Republic
Information from: The Republic, http://www.therepublic.com/