Stolen car tracked down by journalist after gas station theft


Jade M

A man walks through the lot of the Fuel Zone gas station in the 45000 block of Chef Menteur Highway where ORhonde Chapman's car was stolen from on Monday Jan. 27 in New Orleans.

Jade Myers

When ORhonde Chapman was made aware of his relative’s illness, he dropped everything and made a 7-hour drive from Dallas to New Orleans in his brand new white 2020 Acura sedan. But once he arrived in the city, things took an unexpected shift after his car was stolen within seconds after entering a gas station. 

“I really just didn’t know what to do, it’s like my heart dropped to the pit of my stomach. I just felt sick immediately because it was like everything I valued was in my car,” ORhonde Chapman said. 

Chapman usually relies on his keyfob to automatically lock his car doors if he’s in possession of the device when he exits his vehicle. Unfortunately for Chapman on the early morning of Monday, Jan. 27 his electric car device failed him. After the Dallas journalist entered Fuel Zone, a gas station in the 4500 block of Chef Menteur Hwy, surveillance video showed a man wearing a hoodie and pants walking to Chapman’s car, opening the driver’s side door and then driving off with the car along with his personal contents in it. 

“My identification and you know money and credit cards. My cell phone, everything was in my car. My clothing, my shoes and I just felt like everything was about to be lost,” ORhonde Chapman explained. 

Loyola Police Chief Todd Warren said when exiting a vehicle, the driver should always take certain precautions. 

“Probably the most important thing that in crime prevention is to be aware of your surroundings, Warren explained. Hide your belongings, take them with you, take your keys and lock your car,” Warren said. 

Though taking these extra measures does not protect every driver and their car 100 percent, Warren said it is better to be safe rather than sorry. 

“You can’t always prevent everything, but if you can minimize the opportunity for theft that helps,” Warren expressed. 

When ORhonde’s car was stolen, a wave of sadness struck him. He cried for a few days, but held on to hope and prayer and turned his tears into action determined to find his car. 

“I had people encouraging me and I just really believed that I would find my vehicle somehow in my soul something kept telling me that I was going to find my car,” Chapman explained. 

After contacting dozens of people and places in New Orleans, ORhonde caught a huge break in his case. He found his car. Everything from the day his car was stolen was still intact including the chicken bites meal Chapman ordered from Rally’s fast food place the morning of the car theft. 

“I begin to call tow yards and I ran up on the city’s tow impound and when I called to my surprise and to my amazement my car was there,” Chapman explained. 

Chapman says he would not have found his car if it was not for the investigative skills his job as a journalist taught him. 

“ I’m very grateful that I was able to recover my car without the help of police, just using the skills that I acquired over the years as a journalist,” Chapman said. 

Locating his car turned ORhonde’s sad visit into a grateful one.