Wednesday, June 12, 2013

"Double-Spoiler" Bandit Lurks on Interstate I-40 East of Flagstaff, Arizona


Scene of the crime - The Winona off-ramp, I-40 East of Flagstaff, Arizona - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)

Beware of the "Double-Spoiler" Bandit on Interstate I-40 East of Flagstaff, Arizona

On Tuesday May 14, 2013 I departed Flagstaff, Arizona, heading east on Interstate I-40. About fifteen miles east of the city, I stopped at the Winona off-ramp, named for the nearby Winona Ranch. In order to stay off the roadway, I circled my rig around and parked it heading east, adjacent to some cedar trees that lined the southern extremity of the ranch road.

Older Japanese four-door sedan, possibly a Toyota similar to one driven by the "Double Spoiler Bandit" at the Winona off-ramp on I-40, east of Flagstaff, Arizona - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)As I exited my vehicle, I surveyed the scene. Not far from my parking spot was an old car, parked along the eastern extension of Winona Road. There, a woman had many belongings out of her car, while she appeared to search for something inside. Parked diagonally from me on the tarmac was an older model “generic” Japanese sedan. In retrospect, I believe that it was a four-door Toyota, but it could have been another brand.

Older generic four-door sedan similar to suspected robber's vehicle on I-40, east of Flagstaff, Arizona - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)The driver of the dusty-gold sedan sat with his window open. He waited apprehensively for someone or something. He wore dark glasses, a construction worker’s safety vest and a few days growth of reddish-brown beard. Was he speaking to someone on a headset? Was he waiting for a compatriot to arrive? Either way, he seemed harmless, if a bit creepy.

As I walked toward the highway bridge, I stayed on my side of the road. It was then that I noticed a high-tech, double-winged, golden spoiler affixed to the sedan's rear deck. It was a fancy, filigreed affair, with slots and extra airfoils added to its sides. I remember thinking, “That spoiler must have cost a lot of money”. I proceeded to the Interstate I-40 Winona highway bridge. There, I took a few pictures toward Flagstaff and the San Francisco Peaks beyond.

The San Francisco Peaks, near Flagstaff, Arizona as seen from the Winona Highway Bridge on Interstate I-40 - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)From the middle of the highway bridge, I snapped my photos, and then returned to my truck. After driving another fifteen miles east on I-40, I realized that my small pack, along with my identification, credit cards and cash were missing. Lulled into a false sense of security at the Winona off-ramp, I had not locked my truck. As I reconstructed the scene in my mind, I realized that a team of highway robbers had taken me for the fool that I had been.

Unseen by me, a third accomplice was hiding behind the cedar trees to the right of my rig. As soon as the fake construction worker in the sedan saw that I was away from my truck, he signaled his accomplice to move in and steal my pack. By the time I returned to my truck and drove away, the whole crew of robbers was gone without a trace.

Double-fin spoiler similar to one affixed to the I-40 robbery suspect's older Japanese four-door sedan - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)With no money or identification and only half a tank of fuel, I stopped long enough to call and cancel my credit cards. I needed a safe place to stay for the night, so I headed for Flagstaff. Having stayed at Kit Carson RV Park several times before, I felt it was my best chance to avoid another robbery in the woods at night.

When I arrived at Kit Carson RV Park, the caretaker was driving an elderly man off the property. I flagged them down and told them of my plight. The older man said, “If it were up to me, I would let you stay… but it isn’t”. The younger man took charge and helped me select a place for my rig. They treated me fairly and they trusted me to pay up the next morning. In the future, when I stop for the night in Flagstaff, there is only one RV Park I will consider staying at, and that is Kit Carson RV Park.

Orange safety vest similar to one worn by the "Double Spoiler Bandit" at the Winona off-ramp near Flagstaff, Arizona - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)The following morning I began the process of rebuilding my identity. The local Bank of America was able to identify me through their signature cards. Soon I had enough cash to meet my expenses. Next, I returned to the Kit Carson RV Park and paid for my previous night’s stay. Then, I called the Coconino County Sheriff and reported the theft. With a complete lack of conviction, the woman at the sheriff’s call-desk told me to wait there and that a deputy would contact me for more information. Sadly, no one from the Coconino County Sheriff’s Department ever called me.

Within two weeks, I had all of my legal documents in order and resumed my normal life. As they say, for every victim, there is a perpetrator ready to complete the transaction. Foolishly, I had trusted my identity and my cash to people on the highway that I did not know. It was inconvenient and Scene of the crime - Google Map of the Winona off-ramp east of Flagstaff on I-40 - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)humiliating to realize how na├»ve I had been. For the "Double Spoiler Bandit" and his crew, however, there was a pack of Instant Karma heading their way. Soon enough they would be aware; they held a blogger’s pack.

Travelers beware. There are roving bands of thieves plying the Interstate Highways of America. Trust no one that you see on the road. Wherever you stop, there may be spotters and accomplices teaming up to steal your belongings. It can happen in a gas station, at a roadside rest-stop or at any rural off-ramp on the highway system. Let my loss be a lesson to all. Never leave your open vehicle unattended. Keep your identification, cash and credit cards with you at all times. If you walk away from your vehicle for even a moment, always lock your doors.

The author's unlocked rig at the scene of the highway robbery, Winona Exit, Interstate I-40 East of Flagstaff, Arizona - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)Furthermore, if you see a generic looking, older sedan sporting a gold-filigreed double-spoiler on its trunk, take a picture and call 911. It just may be the “Double Spoiler Bandit”. If he and his gang are reading this now, they may wish to retire from highway robbery before Smith & Wesson catch up with them. Finally, the Coconino County Sheriff and the Arizona Highway Patrol should ask their officers to pull off I-40 at the Winona off-ramp each time they pass. Those robbers were so successful with me; I expect them to return soon to the scene of the crime… unless they read my blog.