Roeland Park detective helps down-on-his-luck vet get stolen van back

Roeland Park Det. Robert Mason helped get a disabled vet's van back to him after thieves used it to carry out the burglary of an ATM in the city.
Roeland Park Det. Robert Mason helped get a disabled vet’s van back to him after thieves used it to carry out the burglary of an ATM in the city.

When burglars ripped the ATM machine out of the Roeland Park Walgreens in November, it didn’t just leave the ATM company looking for its machine and cash. It left a disabled veteran without the van he sometimes called home.

But thanks to the work of Roeland Park Det. Robert Mason and the generosity of a group of law enforcement officials, the man is getting his van back.

The thieves had stolen the man’s van from an apartment parking lot in Kansas City, Kan., where he was staying with friends the day they used it to drive away with the ATM Nov. 22. Two days later, police in Pauls Valley, Okla., found the white van with the ATM inside. After running the plate and finding some identifying information inside the vehicle, police were able to track the man down.

However, given his financial situation, the man was not in a position to pay the fee to have the vehicle released from the impound lot in Oklahoma nor to drive it back up to Kansas City. Mason said the costs to get the vehicle back to the area were initially estimated around $1,000.

“This is his only transportation, and occasionally he lived in it,” Mason said. “He’s a person without means, so I wanted to help this guy get his van back.”

Mason contacted the company that owns the ATM and worked out an arrangement where they would pay the cost to have both the van and the machine driven back to the area. Mason also worked with an organization of Kansas City, Kan., police commanders who agreed to donate the money needed to have the van released from the lot.

The extra steps to help the man in need have drawn accolades from Mason’s colleagues in the Roeland Park Police Department. Police Chief John Morris said it’s an example of Mason’s “get the job done” attitude.

“At RPPD we try to use all available resources to help as much as we can,” Morris said. “It’s not just the cost of doing business. This particular case helped a vet…in real need of assistance.”

The investigation into who stole the vehicle is still ongoing, and no specific suspects have been identified at this time.