Red-faced detectives from the Policía Ministerial del Estado launched a massive police operation in Tijuana shortly after noon on Friday, October 10, when they apparently left a prisoner in their custody unattended and he drove off in a brand-new law-enforcement vehicle, according to multiple press accounts.
Municipal and state police joined with military personnel in a widespread dragnet in search of the 2014 white Ford sedan, one of 100 such vehicles delivered to state law-enforcement officers on September 12.
El Sol de Tijuana reported that the prisoner was handcuffed when he stole the car.
A witness told El Mexicano, another Tijuana newspaper, that two state ministerial police detectives had taken the prisoner to identify a house where several thieves were suspected to be hiding out. The detectives got out of the car and left their informant alone with the keys in the ignition, the witness said.
The incident began in the El Lago neighborhood shortly after noon and ended with the discovery of the car at around 1 p.m. in the parking lot of a grocery store in the Los Álamos area, according to press accounts.
“There is nothing missing and there were no damages to the vehicle," an unnamed police spokesman told El Mexicano. "The subject fled."
The official version of the incident, according to El Mexicano, is that the detectives left the vehicle to pursue an investigation but forgot to take the keys, and an unknown person walking by saw the keys inside and decided to steal the car.
El Sol reported that police initially gave a completely different account to the press, claiming that the massive mobilization was in response to an armed robbery.
The two newspapers were able to determine what really happened by listening to radio traffic on police scanners, including the initial call for help by the two stranded detectives.
The temporarily stolen vehicle has a value of $27,300, according to El Sol.