Atlanta has become one of the hottest markets for plug-in vehicles, particularly for Nissan, but electric car owners had better take care before assuming everyone just gets it.
Case in point: Last week, a man was arrested after plugging his Nissan Leaf into a local school’s 110-volt outlet and taking about 5 cents worth of electricity as he waited for his 11-year-old son to finish a tennis game.
It was a Saturday afternoon at Chamblee Middle School and a parenting scene like many others, but 20-minutes after Kaveh Kamooneh thought to slow-charge his Leaf while waiting, a cop showed up.
“He said that he was going to charge me with theft by taking because I was taking power, electricity from the school,” Kamooneh said.
A week later the police pressed the case further, appeared at the man’s door, and hauled him off and held him in a jail cell.
“I’m not sure how much electricity he stole,” said Chamblee police Sergeant Ernesto Ford, but, “He broke the law. He stole something that wasn’t his.”
Just remember that next time if you think to take a free taste at a food bar without permission, or snag a grape at a grocery store, or swipe a drink from someone’s water outlet.
The dilemma has sparked controversy as EV owners put themselves out adopting cars their government wants to proliferate in a world of comparatively scant infrastructure.
In this case, the man took from a government-funded institution which is not a little ironic. On one hand Georgia authorities are incentivizing EVs by far more than a few cents to make their citizens want to buy them. Did the police not get the memo to chill out?
Or, is this a case of a scofflaw getting his proper come-uppance for presuming to take without asking?
UPDATE. 11:16 EST: The news source cited above updated its own story, issued a new video, and posted an explanatory statement from the police department in question.
Wednesday evening, Chamblee City Manager and Police Chief Marc Johnson issued the following statement:
We received a 911 call advising that someone was plugged into the power outlet behind the middle school. The responding officer located the vehicle in the rear of the building at the kitchen loading dock up against the wall with a cord run to an outlet. The officer spent some time trying to determine whose vehicle it was. It was unlocked and he eventually began looking through the interior after verifying it did not belong to the school system.
The officer, his marked patrol vehicle and the electric vehicle were all in clear view of the tennis courts. Eventually, a man on the courts told the officer that the man playing tennis with him owned the vehicle. The officer went to the courts and interviewed the vehicle owner. The officer’s initial incident report gives a good indication of how difficult and argumentative the individual was to deal with. He made no attempt to apologize or simply say oops and he wouldn’t do it again. Instead he continued being argumentative, acknowledged he did not have permission and then accused the officer of having damaged his car door. The officer told him that was not true and that the vehicle and existing damage was already on his vehicles video camera from when he drove up.
Given the uncooperative attitude and accusations of damage to his vehicle, the officer chose to document the incident on an incident report. The report was listed as misdemeanor theft by taking. The officer had no way of knowing how much power had been consumed, how much it cost nor how long it had been charging.
The report made its way to Sgt Ford’s desk for a follow up investigation. He contacted the middle school and inquired of several administrative personnel whether the individual had permission to use power. He was advised no. Sgt. Ford showed a photo to the school resource officer who recognized Mr. Kamooneh. Sgt Ford was further advised that Mr. Kamooneh had previously been advised he was not allowed on the school tennis courts without permission from the school . This was apparently due to his interfering with the use of the tennis courts previously during school hours.
Based upon the totality of these circumstances and without any expert advice on the amount of electricity that may have been used, Sgt Ford signed a theft warrant. The warrant was turned over to the DeKalb Sheriffs Dept for service because the individual lived in Decatur, not Chamblee. This is why he was arrested at a later time.
I am sure that Sgt. Ford was feeling defensive when he said a theft is a theft and he would do it again. Ultimately, Sgt. Ford did make the decision to pursue the theft charges, but the decision was based on Mr. Kamooneh having been advised that he was not allowed on the property without permission. Had he complied with that notice none of this would have occurred. Mr. Kamooneh’s son is not a student at the middle school and he was not the one playing tennis. Mr. Kamooneh was taking lessons himself.