At about 3:40 p.m. Wednesday, in the 1500 block of northbound I-35E service road, Lewisville Police recovered a tractor and trailer which had been reported stolen. Police arrested Bobby Donnell Smith Sr., 49 who was the driver and sole occupant of the vehicle.
LPD Captain Michael Moore said that the call had transferred to Lewisville via Carrollton dispatchers.
Lewisville resident Dana Kantowski was behind police when they pulled over the truck, blocking the I-35E service road just after the FM 407 exit she was taking.
“[I’m] not sure what was going down, but I got passed on the exit ramp, then it was ‘guns out’,” she said. Kantowski said she was stuck there for about 15 minutes.
Moore explained that drivers of stolen vehicles are always taken down at gunpoint as a matter of policy. According to records, Lewisville officers Shelton, Slavens, Bryson, and Sgt. Blair made the stop.
The owner of the truck is a truck-driving school in Linden, Utah (over an 18 hour drive from Lewisville) and the owner had tracked it to North Texas via GPS, explained Moore.
Despite some initial confusion, what police have learned is that Smith was an employee of the truck’s owner, and that he was supposed to haul a refrigerated load of corn from Utah to a Walmart store in New Caney, near Houston. Smith allegedly arrived at the Walmart with the corn after the delivery time on Aug. 26, and instead showed up with the corn at the destination on Aug. 27.
However, when the driver arrived, the refrigeration unit or “reefer” of the truck had been off, and the corn had spoiled, so the purchaser refused the load, Moore said. The probable cause affidavit submitted by police to obtain Smith’s arrest warrant said that the truck’s owner reported that Walmart had rejected the load due to mold. The reefer, which the owner told police was supposed to be between 30 and 60 degrees was actually at 95 degrees.
After the load rejection, the driver allegedly panicked, taking the chip out of his company phone, according to Moore. Unable to reach him, the company reported the vehicle stolen to authorities in Utah. Smith allegedly told police he had no idea why the truck would be reported stolen.
The affidavit states that Smith told police the reefer unit was broken, and that he was supposed to get it fixed at Carrier in Houston. Smith told them it was the second time the unit had broken down.
Smith allegedly told officers that he was having trouble with communications with his dispatcher in Utah, and that he hadn’t talked to them since Tuesday. He allegedly told police he wasn’t able to get the reefer fixed, so he left Houston and was headed back to Utah. The affidavit says he later told another officer that he was going to a relative’s house in Oklahoma. It also goes on to say that Smith had difficulty remembering what locations he had made deliveries and pickups to in the days prior.
“He admits he has smoked a little marijuana,” said Moore.
Moore said the driver’s plan was to dump the truck in Oklahoma City where he has relatives.
Police contacted the truck’s owner, who told them that Smith had driven around the Houston area for six hours Tuesday, traveling about 200 miles, when he should have only gone about 50 miles to get the reefer primed in Houston.
Moore told The Lewisville Texan Journal Wednesday that LPD was working to get the truck back into the owner’s hands quickly. The truck was taken to Walmart on FM 3040.
At the Walmart, officers from Lewisville P.D. and the Denton County Sheriff’s Office had the truck backed into a loading dock. A sergeant on the scene explained that they were using Walmart’s facility to offload the moldy corn so they could check the truck for other substances. A police K9 was sniffing around the crates of corn.
Moore said Thursday that nothing was found in the load, other than corn. “His vehicle was full of corn. He had a bill of lading that said rejected due to the spoilage of the product.”
Speaking more generally, Moore said, “Semi trucks are stolen very often in the United States.” “Most are stolen south, by the border,” he said. “Most head over into Mexico, where they’re used for different other purposes. So it’s not unusual to get a stolen semi truck. They’re stolen quite often, unfortunately.”
Moore said that although the stolen trucks often travel the I-35 corridor, it would be difficult for Lewisville Police to be in the right position to scan all the truck license plates going down the highway. He said that GPS is commonly used to track stolen trucks.
Smith was charged with unauthorized use of a vehicle, and Moore said that he could be extradited to Utah. As of press time Friday night, he was still held in Denton County Jail on $5,000 bond. Moore said that more than likely, the unauthorized use charge would be dropped, and Smith would face charges in Utah for the theft.
Note: This post has been updated several times to reflect new information as we have received it from authorities.