A 77-year-old man told police he stole an ambulance from MacNeal Hospital in Berwyn because he had just left the hospital and "needed to get home," authorities say.
Officers caught up with John Neal just before midnight Tuesday on the South Side of Chicago, about 10 miles from the hospital and two miles from his home in the 6800 block of South Claremont Avenue, according to a police report.
Cook County Judge Laura Sullivan ordered him released on a $10,000 personal recognizance bond, allowing him to be released on his signature. When the judge asked how he would get home if she released him on a signature bond, Neal's defense attorney spoke to Neal, and then told Sullivan that Neal had bus fare.
There was damage to the passenger side mirror and the undercarriage of the ambulance, which is owned by the Town of Cicero. Neal has never had a driver's license, police say.
Neal was charged with possession of a stolen motor vehicle and felony criminal damage to government property, as well as driving without a driver's license, according to Chicago Police News Affairs.
The ambulance was parked outside the hospital, apparently idling with a door open, while two paramedics were inside MacNeal, said Ray Hanania, a Cicero town spokesman. Neal had been "kicked out" of the hospital where ambulances were parked, and may have been intoxicated and angry, Hanania said.
"It's just surprising that this guy would have been let out of the hospital" where ambulances were parked, Hanania said. Neal took off about 11:30 p.m. and was pulled over by Chicago police in the 1500 block of West 63rd Street about 20 minutes later.
When Englewood District officers asked Neal why he had taken the ambulance, he replied: "I needed a ride. I needed to get home," according to the police report.
The ambulance is being examined to make sure it's roadworthy, with a spare being used to keep in place Cicero's full complement of four active ambulances, Hanania said. No medications were missing when the ambulance was found, he said.
The two paramedics have been suspended from duty and may face discipline because they should not have left the ambulance unattended with the keys inside, Hanania said.
Neal was scheduled to appear in Cook County bond court today.
Tribune reporters Rosemary Sobol, Jason Meisner and Liam Ford contributed