Anderson County resident Chad Gentry said he went from warehouse worker to detective last week, after Sheriff's investigators did nothing to find a 1987 Chevrolet pickup stolen Tuesday.
Gentry got the truck back five days later on Sunday — thanks to the Palestine Police Department. The Anderson County Sheriff's Office, which reportedly was miffed that PPD stepped into one of its cases, declined to comment Monday, under orders from Sheriff Greg Taylor.
“I believe they have some animosity against the PPD for finding our truck when they either didn't or couldn't,” Gentry said.
Mark Harcrow, assistant Palestine police chief, declined to comment on a potential beef between the two local law enforcement agencies. “It's the county's case,” he said. “I'm just happy the Gentrys were able to get their truck back.”
Nationwide, territorial disputes between local police departments and sheriff's offices have become more and more uncommon. With fewer resources, police departments and sheriff's offices around the country are trying to do more with less through joint ventures and cooperation.
Gentry said he saw none of that in Anderson County, as he tried to recover his truck.
The pickup was stolen from the parking lot at Walmart Distribution Center, where Gentry works.
Gentry, 44, immediately reported the truck stolen to the Sheriff's Office. With the theft captured on security video, and both suspects, a white female and an African-American male, clearly visible, he believed his truck would return in no time.
Two days later, however, after what he called an “utter lack of communication” by ACSO investigators, Gentry feared losing his truck.
On Friday, Gentry and his wife Tammy Gentry, asked the Palestine Police Department for help.
Two days later, on Sunday, PPD recovered the couple's truck.
Gentry told the Herald-Press Monday he doesn't understand why he, using social media and shoe leather, gathered evidence faster than did the sheriff's office.
“The sheriff's office would not release images from the security video to the public to gather information,” Gentry said. “We were allowed to view the video, and it was extremely clear. My wife and I found both suspects on Facebook immediately.”
Tammy Gentry said her social media posts about the stolen truck garnered dozens of responses in less than an hour.
“We shared all the information with the ACSO, but they did nothing with it,” she said. “We went knocking on doors in neighborhoods where the truck had reportedly been seen. We got a lot of corroborating stories, which we also shared with the ACSO – again, nothing was done.”
Gentry said he even contacted the female in the video, Kristy Rhyne, and confronted her about the theft.
“She admitted she was the one on the video,” he said. “She admitted to driving away in the car. But she said she had no idea the truck was stolen.”
That information, too, was shared with ACSO investigators, Gentry said.
As a last-ditch effort, the Gentrys posted a reward on social media for information leading to the truck's recovery. The post included photos of the truck, along with Facebook photos of Rhyne and her alleged accomplice, Frankie Potts.
“The response was immediate,” Gentry said. “We were provided with an address of where the truck was, and told the ACSO right away.”
Deputies met Gentry at the address, outside Palestine city limits. They informed him that, irrespective of the anonymous tip, there was nothing they could do.
“I was told if the truck couldn't be seen from the street, their hands were tied,” he said. “An officer at the PPD told the investigator the source was reliable, but they wouldn't even knock on the door if the evidence wasn't visible from the street.”
Although unable to pursue a criminal investigation, as the case belonged to the sheriff's office, Asst. Chief Mark Harcrow dispatched three officers to the address Sunday to find the vehicle.
As state peace officers, PPD officers were within their jurisdiction to look for the vehicle, Harcrow said.
“Lt. Kerr, Sgt. Kassaw, and Detective Carlson walked up and knocked on the door,” Gentry said. “They asked, and received, permission to look around the property. Even though there had to be hundreds of cars there, they found my truck in no time.”
PPD officers had the truck impounded to be processed for evidence.
Monday, after the truck had been processed and the evidence given to the ACSO, Harcrow called the Gentrys to pick up their vehicle. When they arrived, however, the ACSO would not allow them to take it.
“They said they still needed to process it,” Gentry said. “They said PPD had lied to us, and no evidence had been received.”
Shortly after 1 p.m., during the interview for this article, less than an hour since he was told the truck still needed processing, Gentry received a call from the ACSO, informing him he could pick up his vehicle.
“I think they lied to me,” Gentry said, as he hung up the phone.
The Gentrys, who live 15 miles outside city limits, said they are going to invest in a security system for their house.
“I have four children, and I don't feel safe having to count on the sheriff's office if anything happens,” Tammy Gentry said.
No arrests have been made in connection with the theft.