PALM COAST, FL – On March 10, 2021, the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office (FCSO) was alerted by an automated license plate reader (LPR) to a stolen vehicle out of Connecticut with New Jersey plates that was traveling North on US Highway 1. Sheriff Rick Staly, who had just finished a traffic stop on a speeding vehicle, was nearby and quickly spotted the 2020 Chrysler Pacifica Minivan traveling northbound on US Highway 1 crossing Belle Terre Parkway. Staly got behind the vehicle and gave updated direction of travel to deputies over the radio for the use of StopSticks on the stolen vehicle.
Corporal Joe Dailey set up stop sticks near the Kim C. Hammond Justice Center in Bunnell and was able to successfully deflate the passenger side tires on the minivan which then came to a stop on East Moody Blvd (SR 100) in Bunnell.
70-year-old Stephen Allen Nichols was the driver and sole occupant of the vehicle. Nichols told deputies that the vehicle was a rental and that he had paid for it. Contact was made with the Enterprise Rental Car company in Waterbury, Connecticut, who confirmed that Nichols rented the vehicle on January 8, 2021. It was supposed to be returned on January 10, 2021. Enterprise reported the vehicle stolen on March 1, 2021 after it had still not been returned. The Waterbury Police Department confirmed that the vehicle was stolen.
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“I happened to be in the right place at the right time and was able to keep eyes on the vehicle until we could safely conduct a felony traffic stop,” Sheriff Rick Staly said. “This apprehension was a textbook team effort and I commend our team for doing a great job and recovering the stolen rental car and making the arrest without anyone getting hurt.”
Nichols was placed under arrest and charged with Grand Theft of a Motor Vehicle. He was booked into the Sheriff Perry Hall Inmate Detention Facility where he is being held on a $2,500 bond.