Thief steals police car, crashes into church

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Stealing a car is one thing, stealing a police car raises it to a whole new level.  Gainesville Police are searching for the thief who stole a marked patrol car from an on-duty officer. 

"If someone is going to break into a police car and steal it, there's no telling what they'll do to someone else, so we definitely want to take them off the streets," said Gainesville Police Capt. Kevin Holbrook. 

The patrol car was parked at the Paces Landing Apartment complex.  Investigators say someone threw a rock through the passenger side window, jumped in and took off.  Police aren't saying if the keys were left in the vehicle.  They do say none of the officer's firearms, radios or other equipment was stolen. 

Investigators say they have ways of tracking the vehicle and it didn't take long for them to find it.  The car had been abandoned after hitting the back of a church about a mile away. 

Surveillance video from the Iglesia Nuevo Vida church shows the car slowly circling in the parking lot. In the video, the car is heading for the building, just before it hits, someone is seen getting out and running across the parking lot, then the car rolls into the back of the church. 

"We were told by Gainesville Police an individual had crashed into our building," said Pastor Edgar Flores.with Iglesia Nueva Vida. 

Pastor Flores says it was quite a surprise to get a call early Sunday morning about a car in his building, and even more of a shock when he showed up and saw it was a police car.  Pastor Flores says he prays the car thief turns himself in, and the pastor even invited him to church. 

"Let him know we love him, we don't hold a grudge against him. Maybe he'll stop by, not into our building, but in the parking lot itself!" said Pastor Flores. 

Investigators are still going through the patrol car, especially the cameras to see if they picked up an audio or video that could lead them to the car thief.  Police say they'll also be examing their policies and procedures in the department to try to preve3nt this from happening again.