A dragon’s big La Plata adventure
Policeman rescues stolen toy, takes it on amazing journey
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.
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