Ellsworth, KS – The Ellsworth Police Department (EPD) warned citizens to double check the lug nuts on their tires before driving because somebody has been loosening them and causing collisions.
So far, all of the reported incidents have involved first responders or their family members.
“Our family are innocent parties in this. With these actions, they’ve turned our innocent families into possible victims,” Ellsworth Police Chief Emil Halfhill told KWCH.
The chief posted an alert on EPD’s Facebook page on Sunday morning bringing the problem to the community’s attention, but said that so far, only first responders’ personal vehicles have been targeted.
“So far about the only common theme on the vehicles involved have been, the owners are first responders (law enforcement, fire and EMS),” the chief posted. “No City or County vehicles have been found with loose lug nuts but their personal vehicles or family members vehicles have.”
The first incident involved the child of a first responder.
“The child’s lug nuts become loose and the tire came off while traveling, causing minimal damage,” Chief Halfhill said.
Initially, police believed it was an isolated incident. And then it happened again.
“Another one of our EMTs and an off-duty officer were traveling in Selina yesterday, and one of the front wheels of her vehicle fell off while going down the interstate,” Chief Halfhill told KWCH.
He also told the news station that when a deputy sheriff checked his personal vehicle, he found five lug nuts loose on his tire.
The Wichita Eagle reported that the police department has received multiple calls about loosened lug nuts over the past few weeks.
No one has been injured yet, but multiple vehicles have sustained damage after losing tires while they were driving.
The chief urged every driver in the community to check their tires and make sure the lug nuts are secure. If people don’t know how to check their lug nuts, or aren’t able to check their own tires, they should ask somebody else to inspect them, he said.
Lug nuts are hardware used to secure tires to the vehicle.
Chief Halfhill told KWCH he thinks “somebody believes it’s a joke, it’s a prank – that it’s harmless fun.” However, his department was investigating and taking it very seriously.
He sent a message to the culprits via social media.
“I also have a message for those involved in loosening the lug nuts,” Chief Halfhill posted. “It may seem like a funny or minor thing to do. But when we find you, you can and will be charged with any damage caused by your mischievous behavior and also take note if anyone is injured as a result you will be charged with that as well.”