Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Must be the work of one cold-hearted crook

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Louis Mitchell Jr. saw a brilliant opportunity when thousands of Georgia motorists abandoned their cars on snow-paralyzed roads this past week, authorities say.

Police say he used a tow truck he had stolen earlier in January to haul away four cars left on roads -- and without anyone's permission.

Online jail records show the Atlanta Police Department also arrested Mitchell on suspicion of driving with a suspended or revoked licence, using a fake licence plate, damaging property and three instances of forgery. Mitchell is being held on $92,000 bail.

After traffic jams state officials described as unprecedented, towing firms were hired to remove some vehicles impeding traffic. Police were ordered to look out for potential looters, and Mitchell's unmarked tow truck caught a police officer's attention. Mitchell didn't pull over when asked and the officer gave chase, police told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

The snow started Tuesday and accumulated about five centimetres, but road crews were largely unprepared for that type of storm and the volume of traffic on the roads due to early dismissal of schools and businesses.

At one point Thursday, the Georgia Department of Public Safety announced 2,029 vehicles were left on metro-area interstates. Later that day, 147 remained and were impounded. The state said it would cover towing and impound fees for the drivers.

Atlanta police said they would start towing any leftover vehicles in their jurisdiction -- and no longer offer fee waivers -- beginning at noon Sunday. The statement did not specify how many vehicles remained abandoned Saturday, but about two dozen had been towed as of Friday.

The winter storm led to at least two deaths, 184 injuries and 1,500 car accidents across Georgia, state troopers said.

Commutes took half a day for some during the snowstorm, leading to outrage and questions about the preparedness of government leaders to manage such an emergency.

Gov. Nathan Deal ordered a state of emergency through tonight. That means National Guard troops, who helped clear traffic jams and distribute food earlier in the week, remained on standby.

-- Los Angeles Times

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 2, 2014 A7

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