Cheatham County deputy uses OnStar to track alleged truck thief

CHEATHAM COUNTY, Tenn. (WKRN) — An alleged thief wanted out of Georgia and Chattanooga is behind bars in Cheatham County, thanks to the work of a number of law enforcement officers in multiple jurisdictions.

It all went down Tuesday, January 16, a snowy day when most Middle Tennesseans were hunkering down. But alleged criminals were still out and about, and so too were a bunch of cops and deputies from Belle Meade to Cheatham County and Metro Nashville.

The law officers all teamed together using OnStar to track a theft suspect in a stolen truck to help an infirmed senior who counted on his pickup to get to doctor’s appointments.

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“That’s the only dependable vehicle I got,” said 65-year-old Don Lasater.

Lasater told News 2, he is an acquaintance with the suspect, who the Cheatham resident said is down on his luck.

According to Lasater the suspect, Austin Henry, 28, knocked on his door recently and asked for help. The senior said he made soup for the young man and his girlfriend, who he knew previously.

According to police, early Tuesday morning, the suspect, Henry, drove away in Lasater’s 2023 Chevy Silverado, with barely 11,000 miles, valued at over $50,000.

Responding Cheatham County Officer Shane Dunning could have taken a stolen vehicle report and been done with it. Instead, the veteran law officer went the extra mile. “It hit home a little bit and I made it my point to do my best.”

Dunning first called OnStar and determined that the Chevy could be tracked.

He was on the phone with OnStar while also juggling calls to his Patrol Lt. who was relaying OnStar’s tracking info to MNPD and Belle Meade PD.

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According to Dunning, he was on the phone with OnStar for 54 minutes while the stolen truck, allegedly driven by Henry, was spotted on Nolensville Road at an Electronics Express and O’Reillys.

When the truck turned for Belle Meade, Chuck Williams’ officers prepared to take the suspect down.

On body cam, you can hear Dunning’s passion as he continued to thank the OnStar representative for helping him track the suspect across county lines.

“This man’s elderly, bless his heart and he has a rare disease and he can’t get out in the cold and stuff, it hurts his bones and stuff, and this is the only means of transportation he has to his doctor so I ain’t giving up on him.”

When Henry stopped in a parking garage in the Belle Meade Shopping Plaza, officers swooped in.

News 2 obtained exclusive video as Belle Meade and Metro police make a felony takedown on the 28-year-old, surprising Henry and pulling him from the stolen truck without incident.

“He was surprised that he was caught. I don’t think he realized how we caught him,” said Dunning.

On the way back to the Cheatham County Jail, Henry, also wanted for theft in Chattanooga and Georgia, reportedly had little to say about the stolen pickup truck and his arrest which took 85 minutes and involved three law enforcement agencies in two counties.

The effort is not lost upon Lasater. “I want to thank Cpl. Dunning for his diligent efforts in getting my truck back. He deserves a medal or a commendation or something because when people like me get sick with vasculitis they can’t defend themselves.”

When asked what he would say to Henry, Lasater said, “I don’t hate anyone. I want them to get help. I want justice to be served and don’t hate anybody. They are sneaky and don’t realize how they are hurting people.”

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News 2 asked Dunning if this is why he got into law enforcement. “100%, I have a passion for children and I have a passion for elderly people. So I take it personal. It was a good day for the police and a bad day for the suspects.”

According to Lasater, the truck he counts on for doctor’s visits had no damage.

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