Rockport police chief corrals stolen car, missing gun
ROCKPORT — Rockport Police Chief Mark Kelley's morning got interesting Nov. 1 when a situation involving a stolen car, handgun and a convicted felon suddenly landed on Route 17 by Grassy Pond, driving all his years of training, and gut instincts, into high gear.
At 9:30 a.m. on an average Thursday morning, dispatches from the Knox Regional Communications Center (RCC) in Rockland usually take the form of ambulance calls for the elderly, smoke alarms inadvertently set off, or routine traffic stops on the local highways. But on Nov. 1, Knox RCC issued an alert for an allegedly stolen 1999 blue Cherokee Jeep, which had gone missing from a home in Jefferson.
A Union firefighter heading east on Route 17 heard that radio alert and discovered that he was traveling behind the Jeep, which was unregistered and carried no license plates. Knox RCC relayed that information to the airwaves, indicating the Jeep was heading toward the Rockport/Hope town line. Kelley was simultaneously heading west on Route 17, on the outlook for the Jeep.
In the Jeep was one person, Victor Pendleton, 21, of Belfast, and previously of Augusta. Most recently and until two days ago, however, Pendleton had been an inmate at Two Bridges Regional Jail in Wiscasset, where he had served time for car theft, which is what he told Rockport police. He also told police he was on his way that morning to Belfast, said Kelley.
According to Kelley, Pendleton had pulled off the road onto the Grassy Pond pump station entrance because he had noticed he was being tailed by the firefighter. Just as he pulled in, Kelley also saw him and quickly turned in after him, nosing the front of the Rockport Police Department's Dodge Charger up against Pendleton's door.
Several thoughts ran simultaneously through his mind, said Kelley. He wanted to train the camera to capture what was about to occur and he wanted to establish a safety barrier between the driver's door and the highway.
“He had stolen a car, and if someone does that, they are capable of anything,” said Kelley.
As Kelley moved up to the window, he noticed Pendleton inch his hand toward his right side.
“He didn't have his seat belt on, so I knew he wasn't unbuckling that," said Kelley. "I knew he wasn't reaching for any registration, because the car was stolen, and wasn't registered to begin with. I told him to put his hands on the steering wheel and approached him cautiously.”
At that point, Pendleton told Kelley he had a handgun concealed on his right side. Kelley handcuffed him, instructing that his hands be placed above on the luggage rack and found Pendleton had a handgun beneath his sweatshirt, in a holster. The gun was loaded and had one bullet chambered. Pendleton also had another loaded gun clip in his pocket.
Kelley said Pendleton had told him that he found the gun on the floorboard of the car.
"But the car's owner said no guns were in the car,” said Kelley.
Kelley subsequently took Pendleton to Knox County Jail, “without incident,” said Kelley, charging him with unauthorized use of property, theft by unauthorized taking, operating after suspension, violating conditions of release, and possession of firearms by a prohibited person.
The Jeep was returned the same day to its owner.
“People don't understand why we are so serious when we stop cars,” said Kelley. “This was not only a stolen car, but a felon in possession of a weapon we had no knowledge about. I tell the guys, you don't know who are dealing with on a day-to-day basis and be careful.”
Editorial Director Lynda Clancy can be reached at lyndaclancy@PenBayPilot.com; 706-6657