By Joe Johnson
A man who allegedly kidnapped two children in a stolen car last week in Athens has been taken into custody, authorities said.
Clayton Anthony Looney, 23, of Royston was arrested Tuesday night in Oconee County after he reportedly crashed a van on private property on Michelle Lane in Bogart.
Deputies learned that the van had been reported stolen in Barrow County, and they arrested the suspect upon locating him a few houses away from the crash site,
He was arrested on local charges and on Wednesday was transported to the Clarke County Jail, where he was booked in on two counts of kidnapping and one count each of motor vehicle theft and fleeing and eluding police.
The Athens charges stemmed from two local incidents.
According to Athens-Clarke County police, the chain of events began the night of Oct. 14 at Quick Pantry on North Avenue, where an Athens man left his girlfriend's black 2018 Nissan Sentra running while he went into the store.
After a few minutes, the man came out of the store and exchanged words with an unknown male – later identified as Looney -- who, when the man went back into the store, jumped into the Nissan and dove away on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Parkway, according to a police incident report.
Three days later, at about 1:30 p.m. Oct. 17, an officer spotted the stolen car being driven by Looney in the area of the Athens Perimeter and Oconee Street and after backup officers arrived, a traffic stop was attempted on Old Winterville Road, said Capt. Christopher Nichols, commanding officer of the Criminal Investigations Division.
The Nissan did not immediately stop, but it slowed down and few passengers got out, Nichols said.
“The vehicle then sped off down Arch St. at a high rate of speed,” he said. “When officers spoke with the passengers, they reported the driver drove off with their children,” ages two and five.
It was subsequently learned that Looney “was operating as a private rideshare taxi service in the stolen vehicle and was providing the passengers a ride,” Nichols said. “Looney told the passengers to get out, but took off before the mother could get all of her kids.”
According to Nichols, “A police hunt began for Looney, and a broadcast was sent to the public. Looney called the passenger and told her the kids were safe and someone was bringing them back home. The children arrived home physically unharmed.”
As of Thursday morning, Looney was being held at the county jail without bail being set for the kidnapping charges.
Additionally, the Hart County Sheriff's Office placed a hold on his release due to a probation violation.