A dragon’s big La Plata ad­ven­ture

Po­lice­man res­cues stolen toy, takes it on amaz­ing jour­ney

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By CHAR­LIE WRIGHT cwright@somd­news.com

A pair of scaly La Plata res­i­dents went miss­ing last week, but one fire-breath­ing ci­ti­zen was re­turned home af­ter an un­for­get­table tour of the town.

On Sun­day, July 16, Ja­son Hen­dricks of La Plata sent out a lengthy post on Face­book and In­sta­gram about the dis­ap­pear­ance of two toys, a dragon and dinosaur be­long­ing to his daugh­ter, Evie. The posts also in­cluded se­cu­rity cam­era footage out­side of the Hen­dricks res­i­dence show­ing a woman walk onto the prop­erty and then leave with the plas­tic an­i­mals un­der her arms.

Less than two hours af­ter the posts, there was a break in the case. Sgt. Robert Ba­gley of the La Plata Po­lice De­part­ment had tracked down the dragon af­ter rec­og­niz­ing the sus­pect in the video. He com­mented on Hen­dricks’ post with a photo of the winged crea­ture, slightly dam­aged but safely in Ba­gley’s pos­ses­sion.

Lit­tle did the dragon know it would soon em­bark on a whirl­wind ad­ven­ture.

Af­ter find­ing the dragon, Ba­gley de­ter­mined it was too late in the evening to re­turn the toy to the Hen­dricks house­hold, so he com­pleted his nightly du­ties with his new friend.

“I had it sit­ting in the front seat with me and I was do­ing my reg­u­lar pa­trol around town,” Ba­gley said. “I just hatched up the idea of tak­ing pic­tures as I went around town, mak­ing a lit­tle story for a lit­tle girl to read in the morn­ing, some­thing funny for her to get her in a bet­ter mood.”

Ba­gley took the blackand-blue toy all over La Plata, stop­ping at the Univer­sity of Mary­land Charles Re­gional Med­i­cal Cen­ter, the La Plata Vol­un­teer Fire De­part­ment and even The Greene Tur­tle. He and the dragon vis­ited sev­eral neigh­bor­hoods and lo­cal food es­tab­lish­ments, even­tu­ally land­ing at the po­lice de­part­ment to share dough­nuts. Ba­gley posted 25 pic­tures of the re­cently-re­cov­ered rep­tile in the com­ments sec­tion of Hen­dricks’ orig­i­nal post, which has now been shared nearly 5,000 times.

“It’s just very good of the po­lice of­fi­cer to put that spin of cre­ativ­ity on there, and make light of a bad sit­u­a­tion for a 10-yearold,” Hen­dricks said.

His wife, Coun­cil­woman Emily Mudd-Hen­dricks, said the fam­ily is do­ing well af­ter be­ing a lit­tle shaken up.

“It’s not some­thing that is a ma­jor crime, for some­one to take a toy from a child, but it’s un­set­tling when some­one tres­passes on your prop­erty,” Mudd-Hen­dricks said. “It’s just a great ex­am­ple of how a po­lice of­fi­cer rec­og­nized that our fam­ily was down and then turned it into some­thing re­ally awe­some.”

The Hen­dricks have re­ceived sup­port from peo­ple across the coun­try, and Ja­son said they’ve had 15-20 of­fers to send re­place­ment toys to Evie. He di­rected all gifts to the La Plata Po­lice De­part­ment for char­ity pur­poses.

The cam­eras used to catch the per­pe­tra­tor were ob­tained through the Home Video Se­cu­rity Cam­era Mini Grant, an ini­tia­tive started by the po­lice de­part­ment in con­junc­tion with the Town of the La Plata to con­trol crime within the com­mu­nity. The de­part­ment of­fered 20 grants for $250, with the caveat that users are re­quired to share im­ages cap­tured on the cam­eras for po­lice in­ves­ti­ga­tions. Res­i­dents jumped at the op­por­tu­nity, prompt­ing the de­part­ment to of­fer a sec­ond round of grants.

“It does make you feel safer know­ing that if some­thing does hap­pen, we can find it,” Hen­dricks said. “It’s a great use of tech­nol­ogy.”

Ba­gley said the in­ves­ti­ga­tion is over and he hasn’t seen the woman since the in­ci­dent, so the re­cov­ery of the dinosaur is un­likely. But, the Hen­dricks fam­ily is con­tent with the re­turn of the dragon and a great story to go with it.

“It wasn’t re­ally about us want­ing to re­place our kid’s toy, it was more about ask­ing the com­mu­nity to un­der­stand that for our fam­ily this was kind of a big deal, and to thank the po­lice of­fi­cer for go­ing to the ex­tra ef­fort to make our day a lit­tle brighter,” Mudd-Hen­dricks said.

SUB­MIT­TED PHO­TOS

Part­ners for the evening, Sgt. Robert Ba­gley and the dragon chow down on dough­nuts.

The dragon flaunts his po­lice badge af­ter Sgt. dep­u­tized him as a Ju­nior La Plata Po­lice Of­fi­cer. Ba­gley

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