Drivers begin to return money after $175K ‘cash storm’ on I-285

Weird things have spilled onto Atlanta interstates before — foam tomahawksproduce and a whole mess of livestock, to name a few — but no spill has been as lucrative as the one on I-285 Tuesday night.

An armored truck was driving in the westbound lanes near Ashford Dunwoody Road when a side door flew open, releasing its contents onto the interstate.

Cash, and plenty of it, scattered all over the road.

PHOTOS: Weird things that have snarled Atlanta traffic

Typically, a spill on an interstate would be cause for consternation and likely stop traffic for a few hours. This time, drivers stopped willingly.

One video showed at least a half-dozen cars parked on the shoulder as drivers grabbed at the flying bills.

Cash littered the roadway Tuesday night.

By the time Dunwoody police made it through heavy traffic and arrived around 8 p.m., all of the opportunists were gone.

But, as it turns out, even money you find on the side of the highway isn’t free.

Police are asking all those drivers who took advantage of the “isolated cash storm” to return the money, which could be upward of 50 people.

Those who took the cash could be charged with theft of lost or mislaid property, which is only a misdemeanor under Georgia law if the property is valued under $1,500. Beyond that threshold, it's a felony, and punishments are increasingly serious.

“The law is the law,” Dunwoody police spokesman Sgt. Robert Parsons told “You need to turn in the property. It doesn’t belong to you. Reality needs to kick in, and you need to realize this money belongs to someone.”

Dunwoody police said two people have already returned about $3,000 total in cash. All denominations of bills spilled from the truck. "Ones, fives, fifties, you name it, it was in there," Sgt. Robert Parsons said.

Credit: Dunwoody Police Department

icon to expand image

Credit: Dunwoody Police Department

Investigators are still trying to determine the exact amount missing, but Parsons said the truck’s crew estimated it could be in the neighborhood of $175,000. Officers and the crew were only able to collect about $200, mostly in small bills.

All denominations of bills spilled from the truck. "Ones, fives, fifties, you name it, it was in there," Parsons said.

In a statement, GardaWorld, the company transporting the cash, said it was working with local authorities and investigating the incident internally.

Investigators have seen multiple videos shared on social media and will be working to identify drivers from their tag numbers.

Parsons said his department does not want to have to go knocking on doors if they can avoid it.

“If you bring the money into Dunwoody Police Department, 24/7, and turn it in, that’s it,” he said. “We’re done. We’re all human beings, we all understand this is something that just doesn’t happen. You’re driving down the interstate and money falls out of the sky.”

At least two people on Wednesday took police up on their offer.

Randrell Lewis walked into the police station with $2,100, and another man, who did not want to be identified, dropped off a black plastic shopping bag with about $500 in mostly dollar bills.

Randrell Lewis (center) poses with Dunwoody police Sgt. Robert Parsons (left) and Chief Billy Grogan after Lewis returned $2,100 he took from an armored truck spill on I-285.

Credit: Dunwoody Police Department

icon to expand image

Credit: Dunwoody Police Department

Others, however, went to the scene Wednesday afternoon in search of any remaining cash. At one point, several cars were parked on the side of the interstate in the same location.

The incident, of course, sparked plenty of interest on social media, where the majority of Twitter users questioned those who returned the cash and said they likely would have pocketed the money and stayed quiet. A few others even chimed in with their negative feelings toward those who filmed it all.

An interstate cash grab is a bit of uncharted territory, even for Atlanta. Parsons has seen it happen in the movies, but he said this is the first time he’s dealt with something like this.

“We understand, realistically, at the end of the day, we’re not going to recover all this money,” he said. “Some of it was gone forever the minute it hit the pavement.”