When law enforcement coined the term routine traffic stop, I like to think the cogs in the universe shifted. The fates, spinning their unknown yarns, took pause to hear the word routine and sought to remind human beings that their verbiage was lacking. For humankind is anything but routine.
Sergeant Anthony Gibbs was about to find this out when his routine traffic stop for expired license plates turned into something out of a Saturday Night Live sketch. As of 2015, about one-third of the 18,000 police departments in the U.S. have been using body cameras, a number that has only grown. He was about to see some of the weirdest footage he may ever come across. Sgt. Gibbs pulled over Stephen Jennings and Rachael Rivera and swiftly made a couple of discoveries. Jennings — the driver of the vehicle — was driving with an expired license. His passenger, Rivera, was a convicted felon who was illegally carrying a firearm. The vehicle was also uninsured.
Predictably, both were arrested and the car was taken to be impounded. Trucks haul around 71.5% of freight in the United States, but Jennings’ Ford Explorer had some interesting cargo.
“So when the impound of the vehicle begins and they start moving compartments, here’s the rattlesnake in the backseat. It was surprising to the officer, obviously,” reported Sgt. Gibbs.
A live rattlesnake was in the vehicle. Along with the rattlesnake, they found an open bottle of whiskey, another firearm, and a container labeled “Uranium.” Anyone can label anything as they see fit, but upon testing the substance in the container, they determined it was actually Uranium. Radioactive, powdered Uranium. About 35.5 million Americans move every year and there’s nothing like moving to highlight so of the possessions that cause one to stop and question. This was certainly one of those times.
At least once in life, 86.4% of adults have tried booze. This pair had particularly good taste in, too. The open container in the vehicle happened to be Kentucky Deluxe whiskey. Although the container was open, neither of the two were suspected to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol. They estimate three out of four people suffer from some form of speech anxiety, but Jennings was cool as could be, given his circumstances. When asked about the contents of the vehicle, he made joking remarks about creating a super snake. What do you even say to that? It remains unclear as to how he acquired the Uranium.
Interestingly enough, the Uranium was one of the two things Jennings was within his legal rights to possess at that point. He claimed that he purchased the radioactive substance to test a Geiger counter he also owned and was within the legal quantity limit for having Uranium. He also legally owned the rattlesnake. Unlicensed to drive, Jennings did have a valid hunting and fishing license.
“Many times it would be illegal to possess a vicious or dangerous animal like a rattlesnake, but there are seasons or times where it is legal to hunt rattlesnakes,” Gibbs said.
The hunting license had him covered for the snake. Everything else? Not so much. Just when you thought it couldn’t get any better, officers discovered the vehicle was stolen. At this point, the mounting charges rival the length of a CVS receipt. Jennings was charged with driving with a suspended license, lack of security verification (for the Uranium), having a firearm with a prior felony conviction, possession of a stolen vehicle, and driving with an open container of alcohol. Jennings and Rivera are still in jail and authorities are still trying to hash out potential motives.
There’s a lot to unpack here, but if we’ve learned anything from our whiskey swilling radioactive snake handling fugitives, it’s this: when in doubt, why not go with super snake?
Stay updated with all the insights.
Navigate news, 1 email day.
Subscribe to Qrius