Metairie — The Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office said that Paul Shepard decided to live out every 7-year-old boy’s fantasy and drive a big, red fire engine. The only problem?
Shepard isn’t 7 years old, and he isn’t a firefighter.
Shepard, 30, was booked Wednesday with attempted auto theft and disturbing the peace while drunk after authorities said he sauntered into his neighborhood fire station and decided to crank up the old engine. He has since been released from custody and declined to comment on the incident Monday.
The incident happened about 11:30 p.m. Wednesday, according to Joe Greco, the fire chief for the East Bank Consolidated Fire Districts. Firefighters at Station 16 on Lafreniere Street had retired to their quarters for the night, but the main engine bay door was left open.
Greco said the door malfunctioned during the day, and firefighters called a repair crew to get it. They thought the problem had been fixed until firefighters tried to close it later that day, and it wouldn’t close. The company that made the repairs was closed for the day, and couldn’t come back out to fix it.
“It was just a coincidence,” said Greco, who noted that typically repairs on doors are made the same day they malfunction. “I guess everything worked against us at that point.”
It’s unclear how Shepard got to the station because the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office’s incident report was not available Monday. However, Shepard does live only a few blocks away from the station on Green Acres Road.
When he saw the open engine bay, he apparently couldn’t resist, according to the initial arrest report. Shepard went into the station, hopped into the driver’s seat of the fire truck and cranked it up. Greco said starting a fire truck requires a bit more than turning a key.
“Evidently, he must have figured it out,” Greco said.
Firefighters at the station were shocked when they heard the truck start up despite all of them being in their quarters, Greco said. They rushed downstairs and were able to pull Shepard from the vehicle before he got it moving. Greco said it appeared Shepard was intoxicated when firefighters caught him.
Firefighters immediately called the Sheriff’s Office, and Shepard was arrested without incident, Greco said. There was no damage to the truck or any other equipment.
However, Greco still couldn’t believe what happened, even after a weekend to let it sink in. He said he’s heard about people stealing fire engines in other states, in fact a simple Google search turns up plenty of incidents in the past year.
But Greco said he’s never heard of anything like that in Jefferson Parish, or any of the nearby areas. He said firefighters and residents were fortunate nothing more serious happened. He acknowledged that it’s quite the strange story.
“In my 30-some-odd years as a firefighter, I’ve never witnessed anything like that,” Greco said.
Greco said the station doors are now fully operational. They will be closed at night from now on, he said.