The same 12-year-old Bay County boy who stole a school bus last month did it again last week.
But this time, an alert motorist and a nearby Carrabelle policeman worked to nail him in
Michael Propst was picked up for driving the school bus on U.S. 98, just east of State Route 65, on Wednesday morning, July 16, a day after being released from the custody of the Department of Juvenile Justice on a previous case where he had stolen a bus from the Bay County School District three weeks earlier.
After Propst drove the bus east about 55 miles into
Carrabelle Deputy Chief Gary Hunnings was completing an arrest in Carrabelle on a sheriff’s warrant, and had just left the county jail on SR 65 when he got the call from a dispatcher.
“The bus had just passed (SR) 65,” said Carrabelle Chief Craig Kincaid. “
Hunnings said he turned around “and tried to meet the bus, not knowing it was a
He said the bus “went over the white line a couple times,” so he flashed his lights, which prompted the truck to pull over. "He (the bus driver) goes past the school, and I’m thinking it’s a drunk bus driver because he goes over the line a few more times. It wasn’t really very terrible, but it was worth checking out,” Hunnings said.
After the bus pulled over to the side of the road, Hunnings walked up to the door, which the youth opened.
“The driver looked fairly young,” he said. “I asked him ‘Are you the usual bus driver?’ and the kid tells me ‘I borrowed it from a friend.’”
Hunnings handcuffed the lad, and put him in the back of his police cruiser. “I asked him his personal information. He was fairly quiet,” said the deputy chief. “ I asked him where he was headed. He said he didn’t know, he was just going.
“He told me he was having some issues at home and school and all,” said Hunnings. “He was as calm and cool as he could be.”
Kincaid ended up driving Propst to the jail, while Hunnings was assigned the task of driving the bus, which had a quarter tank of diesel fuel left, to the jail.
“ I advised him of his Miranda rights, and I asked him if he wanted to make comments,” said Kincaid. “He just shrugged his shoulders. He was not questioned. He didn’t seem scared; he wasn’t crying.”
Meanwhile, Hunnings stepped inside the bus to drive it to the jail.
“The funny thing about this is, I have a Class CDL (license), I drove semi trucks, 18-wheelers, and I couldn’t even figure out how to get a school bus to go,” said Hunnings. “There’s a sequence you have to do to make a school bus go. You don’t just get in and throw it in drive and go.”
As he worked to get it going, his fellow police officers offered Hunnings a suggestion. “Do we need to get the 12-year-old kid back here to drive it?” they asked.
“It amazes me that a 12-year-old kid figured it out,” Hunnings said.
Stole aunt’s truck the previous night
Mike Jones, safety and security officer at Bay District Schools, said Propst located a hidden key left in a school bus at Parker Elementary after the bus driver completed his bus route. He said hiding a key in a parked bus is a temporary standard procedure, and that school officials are working a new permanent procedure.
Parker Police Department's Lt. Dennes Hutto said Propst "invoked his Fifth Amendment right by saying nothing to anybody" after his initial arrest July 16.
Parker police charged Propst with trespassing on school property, grand theft auto and burglary of a conveyance, along with other charges pending from Springfield Police Department.
Propst allegedly stole a truck the night before, July 15, according to his aunt Kerry Shoute, of
"When I come back, my truck wasn't in the driveway," Shoute said, noting Propst likely took the 1998 Mitsubishi Montero sometime between 10:45 p.m. and midnight.
By about 7 p.m., Shoute said the family was waiting on Propst's call from the detention center, and the first question she wanted to ask him was regarding the location of her truck.
The juvenile is generally a good kid, Shoute said, and it's unclear why he has stolen the vehicles.
"I really couldn't tell you why; I really couldn't," Shoute said. "I'd take him where he'd want to go, and he knows that. But, he'd rather take then ask.”
The truck was found July 17 with a busted-out back window and damage to its bumper and door.
Seemed like skilled driver the first time
Propst’s first incident was June 24 when he took an early morning joy ride across the county in a school bus.
Wal-Mart employees notified a
“It was just odd the way they were driving it,” said Roy Hoover, a Wal-Mart employee. “He was having a hard time parking it, like he’d never drove one before.”
When the deputy pulled behind bus 746 with his emergency lights on, Propst stepped out and initially said a man named “
Deputies later discovered the school bus had been taken overnight from a residence in Parker, and driven nearly flawlessly across
Deputies contacted the child’s mother, who asked deputies to talk to him “since she was not having any impact on him,” an incident report said.
From the on-board camera footage, Propst seemed like a skilled driver, according to Jones.
“You have to take a weeklong course to operate a bus like that,” Jones said. “Yet at 12 he was able to drive one, and he didn’t just take it around the block.”
Propst made the 14-mile trek, which wends along U.S. Business 98 and over the
He was charged with grand theft of an item worth more than $100,000 and felony criminal mischief. He also was charged with grand theft for a missing student recognition device worth about $2,000, and officers could be looking into other charges against the juvenile.
Though Propst told deputies he did not remember hitting anything, the
“We don’t know if that occurred before he got the bus, but there’s a potential he ran into something white,” said Bay County Major Tommy Ford.