Sacto 9-1-1
October 20, 2010
Man suspected of stealing fire engine arrested -- 20 miles from station

By Chelsea Phua
cphua@sacbee.com

A 38-year-old man was arrested for reportedly stealing a fire engine Wednesday afternoon from a south Sacramento fire station, fire officials said.andre-newsome.jpg

California Highway Patrol officers booked Andre Marcellos Newsome into Sacramento County Main Jail on suspicion of motor vehicle theft and purchase or receipt of stolen vehicle, according to online jail records.

Newsome had allegedly taken the engine because he needed a ride home to Fresno, CHP Officer Eric Aston said.

"He said he figured a fire engine was as good as any other vehicle he could take," Aston said.

Newsome was discharged Wednesday afternoon from Kaiser Permanente South Sacramento Medical Center, where he had been receiving treatment for "some psychological disorder," Aston said. As he walked by the fire station at East Parkway and Franklin Boulevard, he saw Fire Engine 57 parked outside.

The engine, which was usually parked inside the apparatus room, was moved in front of the station on the driveway so a city maintenance crew could work on modifications to the room, said Capt. Jonathan Burgess, Sacramento Fire Department spokesman.

When the city crew left, the fire engine was still there, Burgess said.

Firefighters, who were inside the station, did not know the engine was taken until CHP officers called the fire department to say it was found some 20 miles away, CHP Sgt. Sean Duryee said.

A passer-by spotted the fire engine - with its lights and sirens on - on Franklin Boulevard near Twin Cities Road shortly before 4 p.m., CHP officials said. The witness allegedly saw Newsome climb out of the driver's side of the engine.

"(The witness) thought that was kind of odd," Aston said.

Newsome told authorities he decided to abandon the fire engine because he couldn't figure out how to turn off the lights and sirens, which he had apparently turned on some time during his drive south, Aston said.

Newsome was also having trouble with the brakes, the officer said.

"He wasn't able to operate the vehicle very well," Aston said.

Fire officials said fire engines are difficult to operate without training or familiarity. They said all the equipment appeared to be on the vehicle, but one of the rear tires sustained significant damage because the engine was being driven with the emergency break engaged.

The engine was towed to the Meadowview Corporation Facility for inspection and needed repairs.

Other agencies that helped recover the engine included the California Department of Fish and Game, the Sacramento County Sheriff's Department and the Consumes Community Services District Fire Department.

Photo of Andre Newsome courtesy of Sacramento County Sheriff's Department

Call The Bee's Chelsea Phua, (916) 321-1132.

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