ATHENS — Police haven’t released the identity of the genius who stole Roquan Smith’s stuff just yet. That should come Wednesday as warrants for felony “entering auto” are being processed as you read this.
Never mind tying up the court system. I’ve decided what the culprit’s punishment should be. Thief versus Roquan. Ten carries. No blocking.
At the end of the day, one skinny iPad is all that got away. And, based on what we’ve heard, that little piece of technology has been rendered worthless as the Chicago Bears executed a remote-based scrub on it.
A tip of the cap to Athens-Clarke’s Finest is in order here for the quick resolution of the Great Roquan Caper. And when I say “great,” I’m not referring to the criminal capabilities of the suspect. The heist of Smith’s valuables was less than a week in getting solved — five days, in fact — and the “mastermind” of this foolish felony shall be arrested in the coming hours.
Let’s just say this guy won’t go down as the next Vicenzo Peruggia (the world-famous thief who stole the Mona Lisa).
The culprit’s name is the only mystery that remains in this story, which began about 5 p.m. last Friday when Smith pulled his 2018 BMW X5 into his parking space beneath The Mark luxury apartments in downtown Athens. When Smith returned to his car about 11:30 a.m. the next morning, he noticed that all of his loot in the back of the SUV was missing.
No doubt you’ve seen by now what was in Smith’s car. There was a considerable amount of swag, some Bose headphones and a bluetooth speaker, two designer watches and a pair of designer shades, among some other stuff. NFL first-round draft picks tend to accrue such things in bunches in the immediate aftermath of such a life-changing event as becoming pro football’s No. 8 pick.
But that wasn’t what had Smith fretting. It was his Georgia football helmet and three UGA jerseys, including one from the Rose Bowl and another from the National Championship Game. As one might expect, those items hold tremendous sentimental value for Smith, a Butkus Award-winning linebacker who helped lead the Bulldogs to an SEC Championship in one of the school’s most exciting seasons ever.
“It was huge,” Smith said via video Wednesday of the Athens-Clarke police’s quick work and recovery.
Interestingly, each of his Georgia items was listed on the initial police report with a value of $1,000. Who knows what they’re really worth on the collector’s marker. “Probably priceless,” said Ty Hutchins, the Summerville police detective who retrieved the jerseys and helmet from a residence in that rural Northwest Georgia town late Tuesday.
He was exaggerating, but that’s the thing. What in the world could somebody do with this stuff? I can’t help but wonder what this genius was thinking. Surely he must’ve known who Roquan Smith is. Heck, it said it on the UGA trophy he stole that said “Athlete of the Year” on it. It’s not like he could just throw it up on eBay and say “highest bid wins.”
Then again, not everybody in the world — or even Athens — knows Roquan Smith. The first Athens-Clarke public information officer I spoke with on Wednesday was unaware.
Sure, Smith is not without fault here. He told police last Saturday that there’s a chance he may have left his car unlocked. He locked it initially as he always does, he told them. But then he went back out to a friend’s car in the parking lot around 2:30 a.m. Saturday and may have “accidentally unlocked” his own.
Regardless, it takes considerable audacity — not to mention stupidity — to see three No. 3 Georgia jerseys in the back of shiny silver luxury car and decide you might just snatch them if it’s unlocked.
This is where I would have loved to have read an alternate story about this crime. Imagine if Smith and his unnamed friend happened upon our young culprit as the thief rummaged through the cargo space of his X5. I’ve seen what Smith can do to Baker Mayfield on third-and-short. Imagine what he could do to a two-bit hoodlum in a parking garage in the wee hours of the morning.
I take that back. It’s good for all involved that Smith didn’t happen up on the heist.
Fortunately, this story has a happy ending. As Smith pointed out in the self-made video he uploaded to Twitter, the Athens-Clarke police deserve credit for the “prompt attention” and quick work they did to solve the case. Obviously, this person — who may or may not be a UGA student — has been in trouble before, because it came down to police lifting fingerprints off the car. From that, they were able to identify a suspect, locate the suspect, question him, gain a confession and recover the property.
“We spoke to him,” Officer Epifanio Rodriguez assured me. “He knows he’s the guy and we know he’s the guy.”
Here’s the official statement Rodriguez gave me over the phone:
“The day we took the report the officer was able to pull fingerprints. Yesterday the detectives were able to identify a suspect. From that identification they were able to execute a search warrant for a resident here in Athens. When they executed that search warrant, a person believed to be the suspect was there. We interviewed him and he admitted to stealing the property. Some of [Smith’s] property was located at that residence, and after talking to the suspect further he told us he had taken the rest of the property, the majority of the UGA jerseys and helmets and all that stuff, to a family member’s house in Summerville.
“We contacted the Summerville Police Department and made them aware of the stolen property possibly inside of that residence. Contact was made with the resident and the jerseys and all that other stuff was located at the residence in Summerville. We don’t believe that Summerville resident was involved or is a suspect in any way. All of the victim’s property outside of the iPad has been returned to him. An arrest has not been made yet. However, warrants for felony entering auto are forthcoming.”
Good police work, for sure.
Officer Rodriguez couldn’t confirm for me that the culprit was, in fact, a UGA student. Somehow it would be easier for me to process if I knew this was some drunk frat boy who happened to see a gleaming red helmet in the back of a “Beamer” and, finding the vehicle unlocked, just decided to dress up like Roquan to make his buddies laugh. Then maybe he passed out in uniform and couldn’t remember exactly how he’d gotten in it, so he panicked and hid them back home.
Likely, though, this is just good old-fashioned greed and stupidity. At least Roquan got his stuff back. It will go down as another happy chapter in the growing legend of Georgia’s Roquan Smith.