Thief of Police

Tony White's lifelong obsession with law enforcement

During the ensuing months White practically moved into Bowen's home. He spent time teaching one of Bowen's sons about car engines and parts. When Bowen took a fishing trip to Canada, White pitched in by dispatching cabs. Sometimes White would stay so late into the evening that he had to be asked to leave.

The relationship with White came to an abrupt end in early October, when, Bowen says, he wrote out a check for $36,100 to purchase a slew of cars and equipment at auction. White was supposed to immediately reimburse him for his share of the haul so that the check wouldn't bounce, but instead he disappeared. When the money hadn't materialized four days later, Bowen contacted the police.

He has heard from his former friend and business associate only once since then. White called him at work and threatened him. "I can see you through the window, fat-ass," Bowen recalls him saying. "You better watch your back." Bowen was more angry than scared. He couldn't believe that the cops had told White that Bowen had snitched on him and then set him free.

In the ensuing days, Bowen alleges, White repeatedly drove past his house. Bowen's wife insists that she even saw him roll by dressed as a woman. After a warrant was again issued for White's arrest, Bowen says, he tried to help the FBI engineer a sting. "I had one of my drivers try to set up a meeting with him to buy a car and he basically just laughed it off," he says.

Bowen would be content never to see White again. "I'd rather strangle him right now than look at him," he says. Yet he also retains a certain admiration for White's chutzpah. "The guy has brass balls as big as anyone could freakin' imagine."

 

The past year was a particularly adventurous one for White, even by his own impressive standards. On May 28, Minnetonka police officers visited the Carefree Living senior apartment complex to investigate a suspected theft of a Ford Bronco. As officer David Riegert pulled into the lot where the vehicle was parked, he observed a Chevrolet Tahoe coming toward him at a "high rate of speed." According to police reports, the Tahoe struck Riegert's squad car, drove over part of the front of his vehicle, and then headed west on Minnetonka Drive. Officer Riegert set off in pursuit, lights and siren activated. The driver of the Tahoe was Tony White.

The high-speed chase proceeded south on Williston Road, then west on Highway 7, with White flying past oblivious motorists on the shoulder. At the intersection of County Road 101, White finally pulled into the parking lot of a Cub Foods. Officer Riegert rammed the Tahoe, pushing it onto a grassy knoll and against a large rock. Unfortunately, the collision also forced his squad car to slide into a light pole. Officer Riegert then emerged from his vehicle, drew his weapon, and approached the Chevy Tahoe. But White somehow managed to free his vehicle and took off again, heading north on 101. With another officer now in pursuit, White's behavior became even more erratic. He crossed the median separating the northbound and southbound lanes of the road, circling four or five times, and then pulled into the 7-Hi Shopping Center.

At this point, unbelievably, with White seemingly taunting the cops, the pursuit was abandoned. By then the police officers recognized whom they were dealing with--White's picture had been circulated among Minnetonka cops--and decided it was too dangerous to continue pursuing him. They figured White would pop up again soon enough. "That's the thing about Tony; he never strays far away," says Minnetonka Lt. Mark Raquet. "You always know he's going to surface." White was charged with fleeing a police officer in a motor vehicle. In June, he was charged for possessing stolen goods in connection with a pilfered squad car from Madison, Wisconsin. A month later Eden Prairie police arrested him after a 10-mile chase that came to a halt when the road dead-ended at a gravel pit. On October 3 the St. Paul Police Department discovered that a 2003 Crown Victoria had been stolen from its garage in the Midway neighborhood. Nobody was sure exactly how long the vehicle had been missing, but it appeared to be an inside job: The keys to the squad car were also absent.

It didn't take long for Sgt. Tom Bergren to finger White as his primary suspect. Despite his lengthy criminal record, White was a regular visitor to the garage on Energy Park Drive. Joel Matters, a mechanic at the facility, says that White had been dropping by for at least two years. "He just would stop in," Matters notes. "He was usually looking for used tires, and then he always wanted to look at what we were selling. He was always buying police cars, fixing them up, and selling them." During the evenings, when Matters was one of the few people around, White came and went as he pleased. "I would talk to him for a while and then I would get back to work," the mechanic says. When the Crown Victoria disappeared, along with the keys, Matters realized that he'd been naive. "He had me totally faked out. I guess I'm just too trusting."

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