Man returns stolen van to Riverside mortuary after he finds dead body inside, police say

A man stole a van parked outside a mortuary in Riverside early Sunday morning, only to discover there was a body inside, police said. 

Bobby Joe Washington, 24, returned the van about an hour later, then stole a different van from the same business, police said. When a mortuary worker tried to stop him, he tried to run that person over, according to police. 

“I don’t think I’ve ever heard of anything like this,” said Riverside Police Department spokesman Ryan Railsback. “Out of all the bad decisions he made, he at least made one good one and brought back the deceased person.”

Washington was arrested about 2 ½ miles from the mortuary on the 1900th block of Chicago Avenue. He was charged with two counts of auto theft, one count of evading police and one count of assault with a deadly weapon. 

He wasn’t charged with stealing the dead body because police officials said they believe he didn’t mean to take it. 

“We don’t think he knew it was in there at the time he stole it,” Railsback said. 

The incident began around 1:30 a.m. The driver had just picked up a deceased person and returned to the mortuary to pick up some paperwork. He left the keys in the car and briefly went inside, officials said. 

That’s when the first van was stolen. About an hour later, police were notified that a second van was stolen.

Washington, who is from Riverside, led police on a 10-minute chase that ended at Linden Street and Canyon Crest Drive, police said. 

“The suspect was uncooperative,” Railsback said. “Until the canines got there.”

esmeralda.bermudez@latimes.com

@LATBermudez 

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