HARDY, AR (KAIT) – A Region 8 man was arrested Tuesday morning near Hardy City Hall on charges he stole money from a horse-drawn carriage Easter Sunday. According to Police Chief Ernest Rose, Gerald Digrazia, 41, Hardy, was arrested for theft of property. Police say they received information he stole money from a man after a carriage ride.
"It was around four o'clock in the evening, Mr. Qualls had a buggy ride in town, reported that he had been robbed," said Rose.
Rose said he contacted the Sharp County parole officer, who put together a photo lineup for Donald Qualls, the driver of the carriage, to review.
"He said he took this gentleman for a ride on the buggy down Loeberg Park and he come back into town and he said the man had his bag and he noticed it wasn't hanging where it was supposed to be," said Rose. "He yelled at the man, the man took off running down Main Street so he took off after him with his horse and buggy but the traffic was so heavy he couldn't catch up with him."
Rose said this was the first such incident involving a horse-drawn carriage since he's been in law enforcement. He said he believed it was the first carriage theft in more than 100 years.
"It's been a long time, I'm sure, since there was a stage coach robbery in hardy," said Rose. "He confessed. The only discrepancy I found was that he said there wasn't that much money."
Rose said Digrazia will appear in Ash Flat District Court May 6th.
"He said I wanted to buy some more beer. That's the only excuse that he had. He said alcohol has control of him and he just gets in trouble," said Rose. "When he went to jail, I know he got mad at the officer that transported him out to the jail, he said, I wish you'd quit calling me a stagecoach robber. Well, basically that's what he is."
"It's just a one horse carriage and he does it and he takes donations, he don't ask for money and that's what this bag was containing was donations," said Rose. "He takes you down to the river and down through the park and down through town."
Qualls said he was happy with the respond provided by the Hardy Police Department.
"He told me pretty well his life story. That's the reason why we were able to identify him and catch him as quick as we did because he gave me so much history of his life on this ride we took," said Qualls. "He kept my attention at all times so he could get the money out of my purse."
Qualls said he has been providing free carriage rides for tourists for three years. He said Chico, a six-year old paint horse, has been giving rides since the hobby began.
"He was petting the horse and telling me what a fine horse it was and how soft his nose was and how he enjoyed riding him," said Qualls. "When he walked off, immediately when he crossed the street I looked at my purse and seen that the purse had been broken into and the strap was broke and the money was all gone, and I immediately took my horse and went up the street chasing him, but he went up the hill from me and got away from me."
For more information on Donald and Chico, click here.
"Instead of sitting at home and watching television or something like that, I'm out here working this horse and enjoying life and making other people happy," said Qualls.