GALLATIN, Tenn. (WKRN) — When a thief cut a catalytic converter off the church van at the Southside Baptist Church in Gallatin, police asked for the public’s help and News 2 viewers came through big time.
News 2 aired a video of a distinctive looking truck that was seen leaving the scene of the crime and viewers called with the clue that cracked the case.
The getaway vehicle was a two-tone, yellow and black Chevy Colorado.
“The vehicle was key. It is a unique paint job,” said Lt. Lamar Ballard.
Hours after the News 2 broadcast, Gallatin flex officers find the two-tone truck in Hendersonville. Officers also find the owner of the truck, William Hampton of Kentucky.
The 36-year-old admits this truck is his, but he denies any involvement in a catalytic converter theft.
Officer: Does anyone else drive your truck?
Officer: It’s a yes or no.
Hampton: No. I ain’t taking no catalytic converters.
Officer: Who was driving your truck?
Hampton: I don’t, I don’t know.
Officer: That ain’t going to fly.
“He initially denies it, but the evidence we have against him is very detailed,” said Lt. Ballard.
Ballard tells News 2 that William Hampton’s alleged M.O. is church vans parked outside churches.
“His M.O. is he is targeting churches with vans. That’s unfortunate, because this is an organization, a nonprofit organization, that are out to help people and here they are being victimized. We believe this individual is good for thefts in other states and jurisdictions here in Middle Tennessee.”
Hampton was arrested on theft and drug charges, but Ballard says more charges are possible.
Multiple detectives tell News 2 with the soaring price of precious metals, catalytic converter thefts are on the rise. In the biggest city, Nashville, Metro Police report 228 thefts this year so far.
And in Berry Hill, one of the tiniest cities, police report five catalytic converter thefts in the last four months including one from last Wednesday.
Berry Hill Police supplied News 2 surveillance footage that shows three men arriving in a black Dodge Ram 1500 with silver skirting and a dent near the rear tire on the driver’s side. The men spend half an hour cutting three catalytic converters off three work trucks at great expense to the business. That includes a $5,000 piece of welding equipment that the bandits yanked off the side of a truck.
Back to the Gallatin case, police confirm that William Hampton bonded out of jail the next day on $10,000.