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Police nab suspect in cop car theft

DULUTH - The man authorities said drove off in a Duluth police car last week has reached the end of the road.

On Monday, DeKalb County Sheriff's Office Fugitive Unit deputies arrested 53-year-old Thomas James Stephens as he drove a U-Haul truck on Candler Road near Glenwood Road.

Following an informant's tip, deputies spotted Stephens and placed "loose tail surveillance" on the moving van. Deputies, aided by DeKalb police, arrested Stephens without incident after he pulled into a gas station at the corner of Candler Road and Memorial Drive.

Stephens was taken to the DeKalb County Jail and later handed over to the U.S. Marshals Service.

On Aug. 31, Stephens was reportedly pulled over by Duluth police for driving a U-Haul truck, which turned out to be stolen, in the turning lane. After making contact with Stephens, reports said, the officer determined Stephens was also under the influence.

Placed in the back of the officer's patrol car, a handcuffed Stephens managed to make his way through a divider into the front seat of the cruiser and drive off.

Stephens drove to DeKalb County, investigators said, where he attempted to sell several police weapons that were inside the vehicle.

With residents' help, officers and deputies were able to find the vehicle in a southeast Atlanta neighborhood later that evening.

Stephens, however, managed to evade law enforcement again. A dash camera captured footage of Stephens opening the hood of the car, leaving fingerprints that eventually led to his identification.

It is unclear why Stephens drove off in the police car initially, but he now likely faces additional charges including theft and weapons charges.

A DeKalb County Sheriff's Office spokeswoman said there is no evidence the U-Haul Stephens was driving Tuesday was stolen.

As to why he was turned over to federal authorities, DeKalb County deferred questions to the Duluth Police Department.

A Duluth spokesman was not available for comment Wednesday.