ST. CHARLES COUNTY, Mo. – A 49-year-old O’Fallon man, who was accused of terrorizing a Lincoln County convenience store over the summer but released from jail, is now charged with stealing a St. Charles County police vehicle during Monday night’s winter storm.
According to Capt. Dave Tiefenbrunn, a St. Charles County police spokesperson, the theft happened around 11 p.m. at the county police station in O’Fallon, during a shift change.
The desk officer, who works just inside the main entrance, was cleaning off his snow and ice-covered police car and started the vehicle to warm it up.
“He had to return to the inside of the station to take care of some of his duties (and) thought he had pushed the button on the key fob to lock the vehicle,” Tiefenbrunn said. “When he returned to the office, he saw the fully-marked police car pulling off the lot…The vehicle returned to the parking lot and was driving very erratically on our police parking lot. At that time, the officer confronted him. The subject stopped the vehicle and surrendered peacefully.”
The suspect, 49-year-old Matthew Ripple, was gone only five or seven minutes, he said. To top it off, Ripple drove his own car to the police department and parked it right next to the police car he allegedly stole.
Ripple was also accused of firing an assault rifle outside a Casey’s General Store in Lincoln County in late June. He allegedly went inside, knocked over store merchandise, and claimed people were trying to kill him and a 14-year old boy who was with him.
He’s charged with unlawful use of a weapon and child endangerment in that case but was released after a judge cut his bond from $100,000 cash-only to $50,000 with a 10 percent bail. He faces a new charge of vehicle tampering for the alleged police car theft, with bond set at $2,500 cash-only.
It turned out the officer’s key fob wasn’t working, police said.
“We always stress to the public to lock their vehicles, especially this time of year when you’re getting colder temperatures; people are letting the cars warm up,” Capt. Tiefenbrunn said. “We encourage them to lock it because as you can see, thieves will even take police vehicles right off the police station parking lot.”
Ripple did not damage the car or anything else during his brief ride, police said.