Thieves make way with county road manager’s truck; leave behind keys to most important buildings in Mississippi community.

Published 6:50 am Wednesday, October 6, 2021

Thieves, either very bold or illiterate, stole the county-owned truck provided for Road Manager Bruce Cook, from his residence Thursday, Sept. 30. As of Tuesday morning the vehicle had not been located, and Panola officials were hoping someone would see the truck and report its location.

The 2020 Dodge Ram, sliver in color, with four doors, was marked with black lettering that identified it as part of Panola County’s fleet of vehicles, and was parked in the driveway at Cook’s residence off Fowler Road.

Cook said he was returning from a family dinner in Hernando when he received an alert on his phone from his home security company shortly after 8 p.m. He called friends to check the property, and on arrival they found the front door damaged and a side door open.

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“My personal truck was in the garage, but I guess they couldn’t get that open,” Cook said. “I would have hated for my truck to get stolen but it has a GPS tracking system and we could have had it shut down pretty quick and located it.”

The county truck was not equipped with the GPS system. The thieves did little damage inside other than taking a Dr. Pepper from the refrigerator, but did find a bowl on a kitchen counter where Cook, like many people, kept his truck keys.

“They rummaged around a little bit and figured out they had the keys to the truck outside,” Cook said. “Whether they didn’t understand they were stealing a county truck or just didn’t care I don’t know.”

Cook, stunned by the brazen theft, arrived home to find the intruders had smashed through two gates leaving the property. It appeared they were either dropped off, or walked to the house through adjoining woods. The Cook home is more than a half-mile off the road and isn’t visible to drivers on Fowler Rd.

The theft could have been worse, in a small way. A ring of keys that would open the locks of the most important buildings in the county was left by the robbers. If those were taken, the county would have potentially needed to rekey both courthouses and several other main buildings.

Inside the stolen truck was Cook’s county-issued handheld radio, and locked in the toolbox was a chain saw and a few other small tools.

Cook was working from this personal truck this week and could be doing so for several months. Both Panola County and the City of Batesville, along with many other counties and municipalities, are currently waiting for delivery of vehicles ordered months ago.

Because of the national shortage of new vehicles caused by supply chain disruptions associated with the pandemic, customers across the nation are waiting for delivery of cars and trucks ordered up to a year ago.

Anyone with information about the theft, or about the location of the truck, should contact the nearest law enforcement agency, or call Crimestoppers at 662-209-2011.