ANOTHER COURT DATE FOR FLOYD HALL
Spend an hour over coffee with the A-Team, and you’re going to start seeing things you never saw before in Anchorage: trucks that are stolen, vehicle plates that are switched, “tweakers” delivering packets of drugs, and shoplifters on the prowl, digging receipts out of garbage cans and using them to get refunds.
The trio of Floyd Hall, Candis and Chad are the core of the all-volunteer A-Team, and they have a unique knack for finding stolen cars. They can spot hot Chevy truck a block away. They’ve recovered or helped recover more than 500 stolen vehicles for people in Anchorage since 2017.
It all started in that year, when Chad had his “manhood stolen” from him: His truck, trailer, four-wheeler, Zodiac boat, fishing and hunting gear, and even his son’s clothing and his mom’s purse. He went all over town looking for his stuff, and even saw the thieves driving his truck and wearing his son’s signature hat. Police told him to not follow, not get tangled up in recovering his possessions.
Chad’s not like that. He tracked almost all of it down within a two-mile radius.
Floyd, who was already helping a few people find their stolen-and-abandoned cars, helped him get back most of his stuff. Chad and Candis, who are a couple, took a liking to the rough-cut Floyd, who between taking care of his aging parents and snowplowing in the winter, tracks down “cars and trucks gone missing.” The three just clicked.
Must Read Alaska spent the morning with the three on Saturday, digging into just what makes them so good at helping others get their rides back. They’re close, they talk over each other. They finished each other’s sentences.
Floyd is gregarious, a hippie biker at heart. Chad is quiet and “country.” And Candis is the girl next door who can competently figure anything out.
Floyd is notorious with police, who half-respect him and half-despise him, because he doesn’t back down, and because he has a large and loyal fan base on Facebook, where he runs a private group called Alaska Stolen Vehicle Recovery. Dozens of people have posted accounts there about how he has helped them find their vehicles:
Floyd will be in court again on July 13, when the date for his trial for reckless endangerment will be set. It’s a moving violation, but he’s been singled out by law enforcement and an aggressive prosecutor because, it appears, they want to stop what they see as vigilantism.
Back in 2017, Hall was offered a 30-day sentence with 30 days suspended, and a fine. When he arrived at court, there were fans to greet him, wearing “Let Floyd Go!” T-shirts. Ultimately, he’s turned down the plea agreement.
To the A-Team, they’re not vigilantes. They just see things that others don’t, and they care enough to follow up. They want to help people because they know that someone’s stolen car is probably their only means to get to work, or pick up their kids at daycare, or just live their lives in peace.
Too often, when the A-Team does recover cars, they are littered with spent hypodermic needles.
If you ask this band of do-gooders, something has gone very wrong in Anchorage, and they want to be part of the solution. It wasn’t like this 10 years ago, Chad said, but he’s been locking his doors for the past two years, since Senate Bill 91 went into effect.
The righteousness of their case is why Floyd is asking for a jury trial — and because he thinks the people of Anchorage are on his side. And he is being bullied by the justice system.
The moving violation got Floyd in trouble happened in 2017, when he was following a stolen car. The occupant of that car got out and shot at him. Police ticketed Floyd for what they said was a high-speed chase based on a witness statement. He disputes that. The shooter, meanwhile, has never been identified.
While sitting with the A-Team on Saturday, they spotted a truck that the three agreed was probably stolen; it was being driven like they stole it, and it had “that look.” They identified a drug deal going down just 20 yards away. Later on Saturday, Floyd filmed a car being taken apart on Academy Drive near Brayton Drive, in broad daylight, “by tweakers,” the colloquial name used for addicts. It was close to the place where, in 2017, the bad guys shot at his tires — next to a park.
This time, he just went live on Facebook and broadcast the car’s condition to the world while he narrated and read aloud the license plate.
And then he kept on rolling by, honoring what the judge told him he cannot do: Have contact thieves. That means he can’t stop to inquire about what other citizens can stop to inquire about.
HOW THEY DO IT
The A-Team has a gift. For one thing, they all know their cars, and they have the uncanny ability to retain information about those cars in their heads as they are out and about in Anchorage. They keep a mental tally about what cars have been reported stolen. And they and others work on Facebook to identify stolen vehicles. There are various groups that specialize in reporting stolen vehicles and other items. One group even has a member who posts spreadsheets with information about recent stolen cars. There’s definitely a wider Facebook community that the A-Team taps into.
They also follow police reports and know the names and nicknames of some of the more notorious criminals: Shane Muse, Lei Lei Robb, Tuna, Fatboy Fishman, Jason Robards, and others. Sometimes they get tips.
“People need to feel safe speaking out,” Candis said. Sometimes citizens don’t want to “rat out” someone to the police because the car thief is in the same apartment building, and they’re afraid of repercussions. Some people just feel safer with the A-Team.
Candis said that since license plates are often switched by the bands of thieves, she’s always keen to know other identifiers — dents, broken tail lights, or tinted windows — things that she can look for when she’s running errands. She and Chad own a couple of businesses, and they like to keep a low profile; when they spot stolen cars, they call them in to police, but they typically keep a safe distance, and leave once police arrive.
Recently, Chad and Candis helped recover a car for an 80-year-old man whose wife has cancer. It was filled with wire and gloves, and the two warned the man not to dig through the car, because it might have needles in it. Have it professionally detailed, they warned. These are things the police don’t think of, Chad said. He’s sick of seeing elderly people victimized and insurance rates going up, but even more so, he doesn’t want an elderly man to get stuck by a druggie’s needle.
“The police thinks we’re blazing guns, but we’re not,” Chad explained. They sense the community is strongly behind them and they try to stay out of the way of police, who have adopted a wary, even hostile attitude toward them.
Candis said that people she encounters are fed up with having to deal with the police, who don’t have the ability to track down stolen vehicles.
“Some people say ‘It’s just a stolen car. It’s not worth your life.’ But these cars are being used to commit other, bigger crimes — robberies, drug deals,” she said. “We recovered another one last week, someone had been gone for the weekend, and someone stole her car and robbed five homes.”
“It’s a weapon used to commit other crimes,” Floyd added.
The A-Team is an avocation for the three, not a money-making venture. Floyd runs heavy equipment in the summer, and Candis and Chad have their businesses. Floyd certainly feels the financial pinch from the legal fees he now has, but also for gas, and the wear and tear of helping others. He’s financially more marginal. People sometimes slip Floyd some cash for helping them get their cars back, and he’s grateful. But Candis and Chad are on more sound financial footing, and don’t take compensation. They see themselves doing what they can to be good citizens, and stay out of trouble with the law for taking an interest in fighting crime alongside Floyd.
The three said that car thievery is down slightly, but not so much as anyone would notice. Some of the more notorious chronic thieves are in jail, they said. But thieves are coming in from Soldotna and Willow, where they can easily hide the stolen vehicles.
For now, Floyd has been ordered by the courts to not follow stolen cars and to not have contact with car thieves. These were the same terms as the plea deal that he refused to take last month, but now it’s a court order, and he takes it seriously. He’ll be at the Boney Courthouse on June 13, with a court-appointed attorney, to fight what is essentially the moving violation ticket that just won’t die. He has to fight it, otherwise he has to hang up his rights to help people get their cars back, and that’s something he’s just not willing to do.
(Editor’s note: Floyd Hall has an account at Wells Fargo Bank where people can help him financially: Wells Fargo #8217848491)