DONIPHAN — A Shelton woman was driving north on Highway 281 on Monday when a man who’d been kicked out of another vehicle forced his way into her van.

The woman, frightened by the man, took her infant and left the vehicle. But the suspect didn’t get far because the key fob remained with the woman. That type of vehicle shuts down when it gets far enough away from the key fob.

No one was injured in the incident, which took place about 3 miles south of Doniphan, shortly after 11 a.m.

The suspect, James Wheeler, a 30-year-old Superior man, was arrested for robbery, criminal mischief and theft by unlawful taking.

The incident began when Norman Hungerford picked up Wheeler, who was hitchhiking in Hastings. Hungerford was heading north on Highway 281.

The two men had a dispute while in the vehicle together. Hungerford pulled over and told Wheeler to get out. He refused, so Hungerford “forced him out,” said Hall County Capt. Gregg Ahlers.

The dispute may have involved Hungerford’s phone and a small wooden object that resembles a bat. The wooden object was a tire chucker, Ahlers said.

Wheeler then moved toward the northbound traffic on the highway and stopped a van driven by Kristen Brandt, 31, of Shelton.

On Brandt’s Facebook page, she wrote that she had to slam on the brakes or she would have hit him.

“He was waving his arms and said he needed help,” she wrote. The truck that Wheeler had left was still nearby.

“The man who ran out in front of me proceeded to wiggle his arm though the van window (which I had only slightly opened) and unlocked the van door and got in. He started yelling at me to go. I refused and he started to try and put my vehicle in drive. I yelled at him to stop and that I wasn’t going to take him anywhere. He then proceeded to reach for his waist band in which I assumed he may have a gun. I told him that I needed to take my baby to the hospital and he wasn’t going to take her.”

She grabbed her daughter and the diaper bag and ran to the ditch. Many people stopped to help and got them to safety, she wrote.

Wheeler tried to use Brandt’s phone. He called 911 and took some selfies, she wrote. She included one of the selfies in her Facebook post.

After the van shut down, Wheeler hadn’t walked very far when Hall County deputies arrived.

When the van stopped, Wheeler was upset. “He started pulling stuff out in outrage,” Brandt wrote.

Little did he know, but he had stolen a minivan from a mother of four, “and the only things she keeps in it is tons of napkins and random snacks,” she wrote.

Wheeler was arrested on Highway 281 about a quarter-mile north of Binfield Road, Ahlers said. Binfield is an east-west road.

When he was arrested, Wheeler had the small wooden object and a pocket knife. He did not have a gun.

Four deputies were on the scene when Wheeler was arrested.


I am the Cops & Courts Reporter for the Grand Island Independent. I welcome news tips!

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