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Deputy’s police car stolen by woman fleeing justice

By LEONARD GRAY / L’Observateur / October 26, 1998

LAPLACE – It was a dark night on Cardinal Street – not the place to be when someone steals your police car.

For Lt. Juan Watkins, a shift supervisor of the St. John Parish Sheriff’sOffice, it was actually more of an embarrassment.

Watkins pulled over a white Ford pickup truck on Cardinal Street at 1:24 a.m. Tuesday. He knew the area was notorious for drug trafficking and notwhere a white couple was likely to be seen at that time of night.

Also, considering the circumstances, he called for a backup deputy at the scene.

In addition, the truck was being driven erratically, raising his suspicion.

According to Chief Harold Klibert, Watkins interviewed the driver, Shara Dorothy Kohrs, 34, 126 Rene St., Pierre Part. He quickly determined therewere two outstanding St. John Parish warrants for Kohrs for contempt ofcourt.

Considering the incident’s location and the time of night, Watkins determined it was in her best interest, as well as his own, to handcuff Kohrs’ hands behind her back and place her in the rear unit of his still- running patrol car.

The car, a brand-new 1999 police supervisor’s unit valued at $23,000, had grill-front flashing lights operating. There was no screen separating frontand rear seats.

Watkins then turned to interview the male passenger in the pickup truck when, moments later, his unit suddenly pulled away and headed for Airline Highway.

“I can imagine how he felt,” Klibert said.

Watkins used his hand-held radio to contact the backup unit and directed the deputy to pursue his vehicle as it turned onto Airline Highway and sped east, through St. Charles Parish and into Kenner.By this time, Kohrs was the object of hot pursuit as she turned left into the New Orleans International Airport. Her intention, whether to stealanother car or attempt to get a flight out, has not been made public.

She was captured in the baggage claim area of the airport and returned to LaPlace, where she was booked for aggravated escape, theft of an auto valued at more than $500, flight from an officer in a motor vehicle, being a fugitive from another agency, reckless operation of a motor vehicle, driving under suspension and, yes, on those two contempt of court warrants.

“I’m happy no one was hurt,” Klibert said, adding Sheriff Wayne L. Joneshas already looked into adding screens to separate front and rear seats in the supervisor units.

“We don’t feel he violated any departmental policies,” Klibert noted, adding, “These things happen instantly.” He recalled another recentincident involving a Louisiana State Police unit which pursuit ended up in St. John Parish.The passenger in Kohrs’ vehicle was released with no citations or charges.

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