On 4/12/15 at 0302 hrs Sergeant Travis Tuenge was patrolling commercial businesses in the area of SR 24 at Mill Creek Park when he observed a John Deere Gator UTV traveling on SR 24 away from Statesboro. The Gator matched the description of one reported stolen on 4/9/15 from a business in the 5000 block of Clito Rd. Sgt Tuenge stopped the UTV after a short distance and observed the male driver fumbling around in his waistband apparently attempting to remove an object. For officer safety reasons Sgt Tuenge drew his weapon and began giving the driver verbal commands to put his hands up. After a short time the male complied and was taken into custody. He was found to be in possession of a Glock .40 handgun which had been stolen from an entering auto reported from the 300 block of Lane Rd on 4/3/15. The UTV was verified as being the one stolen on 4/9/15. The suspect was found to be a 16 yoa juvenile.
Further investigation into the incident was conducted by the on-call CID investigator, Cpt Todd Hutchens. The juvenile was determined to have committed two back to back commercial burglaries reported on 4/9/15 and 4/10/15 at the Zip In Foods #8 in the 5000 block of SR 24. These were in addition to the theft of the UTV and firearm.
The juvenile was booked into the Bulloch County Jail and later transferred to the Claxton Regional Youth Detention Center. He was charged with 1 ct Smash and Grab Burglary, 3 cts of Burglary-2nd Degree, 1 ct Entering Auto, 1 ct Theft by Taking- Felony, 1 ct Possession of a Pistol by a Person Under 18, and 1 ct Carrying a Concealed Weapon.
This incident highlights the ease in which incidents can turn deadly quickly. The situation could have been one of deadly force had the juvenile actually pulled the firearm from his waistband. Deputies must make split second decisions which can have lasting consequences and in this case had no way of knowing that the suspect was a juvenile. Fortunately Sgt Tuenge exercised appropriate restraint and the juvenile finally complied.