Thief of Police

Tony White's lifelong obsession with law enforcement

White blamed his behavior on the fact that there were warrants out for his arrest. "I panicked and took off," he said in an interview later that afternoon. "That's when the chase was on." White also bragged that the only reason he got caught was because Bordwell's Chevy had a more powerful engine than his Ford. "He just thinks it's a big game," Bordwell concludes.

Despite the considerable damage that White's deeds have caused, he has never been charged with a serious violent crime, such as assault with a deadly weapon. The courts have repeatedly dropped one or more of the charges against White in return for a guilty plea. In November, he pleaded guilty in Ramsey County District Court to theft, auto theft, and fleeing a police officer in a motor vehicle. As part of a deal struck with prosecutors, one other felony charge was dropped, and White received a 22-month sentence.

Since 1987 White has been sentenced to a total of more than 16 years in jail. Even allowing for good behavior, he should have done more than a decade of hard time. This hasn't happened, because of another wrinkle in how the courts have handled his cases. Because of White's nearly continuous criminal pursuits, he has often had several cases pending in different jurisdictions at the same time. Instead of piling the sentences on top of each other, the courts have often ordered that he be allowed to serve them concurrently. In 1996, for example, White was convicted of theft in Washington County after passing a bad check to purchase a 1989 Ford Mustang at a state auction. The maximum sentence for such an offense is 10 years. At the time of the conviction he was already facing jail time for similar crimes committed in Hennepin and Freeborn counties. Despite the string of offenses, White received just 24 months for the Washington County theft, to be served simultaneously with the other sentences.

 

John White is a retired mail carier who now resides at an assisted-living facility in Minnetonka. He says that he attempted to channel his son's interest in law enforcement in positive directions. He encouraged Tony to join a program run by the Minnetonka Police Department that teaches young people about law enforcement. "I tried to talk him into that when he was a kid, but he never would go," recalls White. "He never had time for it."

Tony attended Minnetonka High School through the 11th grade, but he did not graduate. High school yearbooks from the period reveal few traces of his existence, save the standard head shot. He apparently did not participate in the Whopper-eating contests or write for the school newspaper. The yearbook from Tony's sophomore year identifies him erroneously as "Anthony Whitt." By high school he was already infatuated with law enforcement. "He would go on these ride-alongs with the policemen, in the squads, for four hours or whatever it was," recalls his dad.

Tony's uncle, Robert White, remembers that his nephew always struggled to fit in. "He had a pretty rough time in high school, partially because of his size," White recalls. "He's no athlete at all. He's no dummy, but he don't think straight either. He shoots himself in the foot."

Following high school, Tony started a towing business. It wasn't long, however, before he got into the line of work that has consumed him ever since, buying and selling used police cars and equipment. Robert White says that he's tried to help Tony out over the years by allowing him to store vehicles at his house when there was nowhere else to put them. "It wasn't unusual to come home and see an ambulance parked in the driveway or a police car," says White. "It was here for a day, maybe half a day, and then it was gone."

Robert White's benevolence has not always been rewarded. On March 7 of last year, Minnetonka police were called to White's house to check on his welfare. His cleaning lady had become alarmed when she'd seen a car in his garage but could not get him to answer the door, and she called the cops. "She was afraid I'd died in bed last night," White recalls. As it turned out, he was simply on vacation, visiting a daughter in Oklahoma. Tony was temporarily storing the vehicle, a blue Crown Victoria, there.

When officers checked the car's identification number, they discovered that it was a stolen Madison, Wisconsin, squad car. It had been stripped of most police equipment, including a radar gun, computer, and mounted video camera. When police questioned Tony White, he admitted that it was his vehicle but denied knowing that it was stolen. He initially claimed to have bought it at an auction in Appleton, Wisconsin, and then changed his story, insisting that the vehicle was purchased at a truck stop near Chicago from a man named Mohammad Abdi. White was charged with receiving stolen goods, one of the felony counts that is currently pending in Hennepin County.

Robert White believes that his nephew's intentions are benign. "I have always given Tony the benefit of the doubt," he says. "It's my opinion that he did not go down to Madison and steal a car. I don't know who he was dealing with, and whether he had any reason to believe it was stolen."

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