On Friday, March 29th 2013, Ms. Trisha Walker reported to Phoenix Police Officer Ryan Ferrell that her 16 year old African Sulcata tortoise had been stolen by a male operating an auto parts store van. Ms. Walker explained that she purchased “Jeeps” 16 years ago for her daughter and the loss was devastating to her family.
Officer Ferrell learned Ms. Walker had left her home that morning for an appointment and when she returned, at around 12:20 p.m. she found the gate to her home open and Jeeps missing. Ms. Walker went out frantically looking for her pet and she contacted her neighbor, Tempest Deptuch, to see if she had seen the 100 pound tortoise. Now it would just so happen Ms. Deptuch had found Jeeps walking on 62nd Av. and she took the tortoise to her home and gave her some food and water. Ms. Deptuch then made some flyers about the found tortoise and put them up around the neighborhood.
Enter suspect Derek McKnight. The investigation revealed the suspect was operating an auto parts store van in the area when he came across the flyer about Jeeps. McKnight called Ms. Deptuch and misrepresented that he was the owner of the pet (actually, he lied). McKnight went to Ms. Deptuch’s home and claimed the tortoise. Out of sheer instinct, according to the witness, Ms. Deptuch asked McKnight for his identification and she wrote down his name before releasing Jeeps to him. Thing is, this all occurred just moments before Ms. Walker approached Ms. Deptuch and McKnight was still in the process of driving away when Ms. Deptuch pointed out the auto parts van to Ms. Walker. Ms. Walker’s natural instincts kicked in and she started running down the street, waving at the van in an effort to get McKnight to stop; he didn’t.
At this point Officer Ferrell could certainly have authored a police report with the information he received and moved on to the next radio call. But, seeing the anguish on Ms. Walker’s face, and knowing any delay might well cause Jeeps to be lost to the family forever, Officer Ferrell kicked “Policing with a Purpose” into high gear. After a lot of leg work, and enlisting the services of his fellow officers, Officer Ferrell had Jeeps back at home with her family within about 7 hours of the theft!
This was a super effort by a great neighbor and an excellent police officer. I guess if you were to ask Jeeps about the entire ordeal he would say, in a slow monotone manner, “I guess it all happened so fast. I’m just glad to be home”!
Date/Time: Friday, March 29th 2013/1220 (hours)
Location: 6201 W. Elm St.
Victim: Trisha Walker
Witness: Tempest Deptuch
Officer: Ryan Ferrell
Property (victim): “Jeeps”, 16 year old brown African Sulcata tortoise, photo attached
Suspect: Derek McKnight, White, male, 24 years of age (P958018), photo attached