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Drivers pulled over at gunpoint after failing to report their stolen cars have been recovered

Posted at 6:33 PM, May 23, 2018
and last updated 2018-05-24 07:50:46-04

It was a high risk traffic stop. 

"You are showing that it is stolen out of Cleveland correct?" the Euclid police officer asked dispatch.

The officer proceeded to pull the driver over, yelling from his vehicle, "Driver! Lower the driver-side window. Throw the keys out of the driver side window."

The Euclid officer drew his gun as he approached the car that was reported to have been stolen from an elderly woman. But just moments later, the driver explained to the officer it is all a mix-up.

It's a situation Euclid Lieutenant Mitch Houser said happens pretty frequently.  

"Sometimes the owner of the vehicle recovered their own vehicle, which is pretty common. Sometimes it is a family member," Houser said.

He said too often owners forget to alert police when their vehicles, once stolen, have been recovered. But he also said officers can't always make that assumption. 

"The mere fact that a vehicle is stolen is a felony itself, but knowing it could be used to do other things like bank robberies and kidnappings or drive-by shootings," Houser said.

That was the case in South Euclid where suspected bank robbers took off in a stolen car. That same month, bank robbers in Fairview led police on a chase, also in a stolen car.

"Criminals steal cars with the intent of using them to commit other crimes," Houser said.

And simple misunderstandings can complicate an unnecessary situation.

"If the owner of the vehicle is relaxed and believes they are not doing anything wrong and the police officer thinks they have an occupied stolen vehicle, there is an opportunity for a misunderstanding that can quickly escalate," Houser said.

Houser said it is imperative for owners to alert police if they have recovered their own vehicle and take it off of the stolen car database.