Oklahoma Traffic Stop Reveals Rattlesnake, Uranium, Handgun

By author of The Realblog with Stephanie Mallory

Police also discover the vehicle is stolen after pulling it over for an expired tag

What do a pistol, an open bottle of Kentucky Deluxe bourbon, a live rattlesnake and powdered radioactive uranium all have in common? Well, nothing, except they were all found in a stolen vehicle pulled over during a traffic stop in a Guthrie, Oklahoma, neighborhood last week.  

Guthrie police made the strange discovery when they pulled over Stephen Jennings and Rachael Rivera for an expired tag.

According to Oklahoma News 4, Jennings is charged with possession of a stolen vehicle, transporting an open container of liquor, operating a vehicle with a suspended license, and failure to carry a security verification form. Rivera is charged with possession of a firearm after a former felony conviction.

When police made the traffic stop, they found Jennings in the driver's seat, Rivera in the passenger's seat and a pet timber rattlesnake in a terrarium in the backseat. At about the same time Jennings told officers he had a gun in the console, police learned the Ford they were driving was reported stolen.

"So now he's got a rattlesnake, a stolen vehicle, firearm, and somebody under arrest," said Guthrie Police Sgt. Anthony Gibbs.

In addition to the open bottle of whiskey next to the gun, a search of the vehicle revealed a canister of radioactive powdered uranium.

"When that happens, of course, we call in a company that deals with that specifically and it`s taken safely into possession," Gibbs said. "The uranium is the wild card in that situation."

But, it turns out the type of uranium found in the car isn't that dangerous.

Dr. Eric Eitrheim, an assistant professor in UCO's chemistry department, said unlike the type used in nuclear weapons, the type of uranium in Jennings's possession isn't that radioactive or dangerous. In fact, it can easily be purchased on Amazon for about $40.

"This is pretty similar to me to hearing about someone who had powdered lead, really, is the way you can think about it," Eitrheim said, "because the only real hazard to humans is if it's inhaled or ingested."

Officers said at first Jennings jokingly said he was planning to "make a mega-snake." He later explained that he sells metal to scrapyards and has a Geiger counter to test if the metal is radioactive.

"You need something radioactive to test the Geiger counter so this would be one of the best ways to do it," Eitrheim said. "It's such a benign material that's lowly radioactive enough."

Neither the snake nor the uranium was illegal to have, except that in Guthrie, you're not allowed to keep dangerous animals as pets. So, because Jennings is in jail, police had it euthanized.

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