’Twas the night before Christmas when a 1998 Oldsmobile broke down. Not an engine was stirring, not even a sound. But Kenner police say David Benson was there, at an Exxon gas station, in need of repair.
Authorities say what happened next involved Benson flying away in a flash — but allegations of auto theft against the 36-year-old New Orleans man make him sound far more like the Grinch than St. Nick.
The New Orleans Police Department also complicated the situation, according to a Kenner Police Department report, by taking hours to return telephone calls.
The victim in all this told police he was at an Exxon station in the 2100 block of Veterans Memorial Boulevard in Kenner on Christmas Eve with his father’s Buick Regal when he spotted Benson attempting to start the Oldsmobile. He offered a jump, but several attempts proved unsuccessful, as did an attempt to tow the vehicle.
The man said he then offered Benson a ride home. According to police, Benson, who gave his name as “Jared,” accepted the offer, telling the man he lived in New Orleans’ 9th Ward. Before long, the would-be good Samaritan said, he was driving Benson into New Orleans East.
After traveling along Chef Menteur Highway for about five minutes, the man later told police, he got out of his car to urinate behind a tree. At that moment, he said, Benson drove off in his Buick Regal, which also had his keys, cellphone and wallet inside.
The victim said he called his father, the owner of the Buick, who then called police. At that point, the father said, “NOPD dispatch failed to advise him on a responding time and did not take the call seriously.” The victim said he waited at a gas station until his father arrived and drove him back to Kenner.
New Orleans Police Department spokesman Officer Frank Robertson said New Orleans police take every call seriously. He said the initial report of a stolen automobile was made by the victim’s father at 1 a.m. Friday, Christmas Day, and that police called him back 13 hours later, at 2 p.m.
Back in Kenner, the man succeeded in reaching police there. But Kenner police Officer Charles Donovan said in a report that his investigation was slowed by the NOPD. He said he “repeatedly tried contacting dispatch from NOPD but was unsuccessful in having an officer return his complaint.”
Finally, after hours of waiting, a 7th District NOPD sergeant called Donovan and said she would have an officer call the victim to take the report of his stolen automobile.
On Saturday, according to a probable-cause affidavit, the victim and his father spotted Benson back at the Exxon station, changing the battery in the Oldsmobile that started it all.
The victim’s Buick Regal was found down the street in a hotel parking lot, police said, and the keys to the Regal were found inside the Oldsmobile.
Benson was arrested and remains in the Jefferson Parish Correctional Center on a single count of illegal possession of stolen things worth over $15,000.
Benson admitted that the other man tried to give him a jump, Kenner police said, but denied getting a ride to New Orleans East. Robertson said Benson is not currently wanted by the NOPD .
Attempts to reach the victim and his father were not successful.