Owner of truck stolen by teen: ‘I thought it was a joke’

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Rhett Parker thought his brothers were playing a prank on him. 

“It’s my birthday, I’ve been getting messed with all day long… you know just innocent fun with friends, jokes and everything else,” said Parker. “My middle brother comes in and says, ‘Hey, where’s your truck?’”

Parker went outside to the parking lot of his business, Parker Brothers Window Tinting, and couldn’t find the new Toyota Tundra he’d gotten days earlier. He still thought he was being pranked until officers from Rutherford County Juvenile Detention showed up. 

Parker says the laughter ended and the worry set in.

Those detention officers asked Parker if they’d seen anyone in the area. They were looking for a teenager who escaped from the detention center. 

Officers say Tai Harrell, 16, left the detention facility on Church Street Thursday, walked a half-mile down the road, stole Parker’s truck and headed toward Interstate 24.

“He seemed, he came thru our neighbor, Jim Kirby, came thru his parking lot. Came in-between my truck and one of my brother’s trucks and seemed to climb through the passenger side door and got in and took off,” said Parker.

“I had my spare key, hadn’t given it to my wife yet, and so it was sitting in the center console. So I have my key right here and honestly didn’t think anything of it. My old vehicle, you touched the door handle it locks. So it’s just  habit I’ve built and obviously that didn’t work.”

More concerning for Parker, and officers, is the loaded gun that was holstered and left in the cup holder.

“I don’t care about the truck. I just want to make sure the officers involved who make the stop on this guy are safe because obviously it seems to be from his criminal past that he’s a violent criminal,” said Parker.

MORE: Search continues for ‘violent’ teen who escaped police custody

Harrell was being held in the Rutherford County Juvenile Detention Facility for Clarksville Police on 10 counts of aggravated assault and charges of felony reckless endangerment, evading arrest and leaving the scene of an accident.

Clarksville police said Harrell also has 24 juvenile crime petitions on file. 

Harrell was reported missing in August 2018 and Clarksville Police searched for him for months. The TBI issued an Endangered Child Alert for Harrell in March but weeks later, Clarksville Police started tracking him as a suspect. 

He was taken into custody April 2 after a long standoff with police in Clarksville. 

The truck Harrell was last seen in is a 2019 Silver Tundra with tinted windows. It has a temporary tag with the number #D445005. 

Harrell is described as approximately 5-foot-6-inches tall and 120 pounds. He was wearing a white and black prison-style jumpsuit. He also has a tattoo of Bart Simpson on his right forearm and the numbers 410 on his left forearm. 

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