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Cops: Man, 77, stole ambulance

John Neal / phofrom Chicago Police

John Neal / photo from Chicago Police

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Updated: November 12, 2012 11:47AM

With a chill in the air and no one to give John Neal a ride home from the hospital Tuesday night, a parked vehicle with its engine running and door open was perhaps too hard to resist.

The problem was: Neal has no driver’s license, and the vehicle in question was a Cicero Fire Department ambulance.

Neal, who is 77 and lives on the South Side, hopped in the ambulance and drove away — angry that no one at MacNeal Hospital in Berwyn wanted to take him home, Cook County prosecutors allege.

“He was at 63rd and Ashland in less than 20 minutes; so he had to be hauling,” said Ray Hanania, a Town of Cicero spokesman. That’s where Chicago police pulled over Neal and arrested him.

Neal — who is charged with possessing a stolen vehicle, criminal damage to government property and driving without ever having been issued a license — made a brief appearance in court Wednesday at 26th and California. Cook County Judge Laura Sullivan agreed to release Neal without requiring him to post bond.

A spokesman for MacNeal wouldn’t say why Neal was admitted to the Berwyn hospital. But at some point, he was released and wanted a ride home. About 11:15 p.m. Tuesday, he allegedly found the Cicero ambulance parked, with its engine idling.

“He just jumped in and took off,” Hanania said. While driving the ambulance, Neal damaged its passenger-side undercarriage and passenger-side mirror, police said.

Hanania said the two Cicero paramedics who were responsible for the ambulance have been placed on paid leave while an investigation gets under way.

“The fire chief is pretty upset about them allowing this to happen,” Hanania said.

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