Early one Sunday morning 29 years ago, police officer Jimmy Joines was patrolling the south side of McRae when a new Porsche blew by.
Joines, 19 at the time, was one of the state’s youngest lawmen. His superiors sometimes used his youth to their advantage, sending him into stores to make underage beer buys in sting operations.
That January morning in 1989, Joines flicked on his blue lights. The sports car, a 1988 model with two people inside, pulled over on U.S. 441 near Telfair County High.
The driver, a short fellow in a hat who was five or six years older than Joines, stepped out. He said something about maybe being on his way to Florida.
“I didn’t recognize him at first,” Joines, now 48, said the other day when a Telegraph reporter called to ask about the long-ago episode. “He says, ‘You know who I am?’ Of course, I got the police attitude and was like, ‘Do you know who I am?’”
The driver, it turned out, was 26-year-old movie star Tom Cruise, fresh off leading roles in “Top Gun,” “The Color of Money” and “Rain Man.”
“Real nice guy,” Joines said. “He was a lot shorter than I had anticipated. … I was looking at his license and his name’s not Tom Cruise. It’s like Tom Cruise Mapother or something like that.”
News accounts at the time speculated that Cruise’s passenger that day, described only as a blonde, may have been the actor’s then-wife Mimi Rogers, whom he divorced a year later. Joines never spoke to the passenger, though, and couldn’t say for certain who she was.
Published reports also mentioned that Cruise was doing 48 in a 35-mph zone.
“I think we probably came up with that number, because he was probably going way faster than that. I didn’t write him a ticket. Didn’t want it to look too terribly bad,” Joines recalled. “I ended up giving him a warning ticket and got his autograph and let him go.”
The autograph, Cruise’s signature on the warning, has either been lost or misplaced over the years. Joines’ friends made copies as souvenirs. Women he knew used to joke that Joines should have hauled Cruise to jail “and let us come down and see him.”
For a time, Joines’ brush with fame earned him a bit of celebrity. He testified before a grand jury in Albany one day and when he was done, a prosecutor asked the jurors if they wanted to ask Joines anything.
“They had a lot of questions, but it had nothing to do with the case,” Joines said. “They wanted to know about stopping Tom Cruise.”
“At one time,” he added, “people were saying that it was a hoax, that it never happened. But it actually did.”
Joines spent 25 years as a cop, including a decade or so as a police detective in Eastman. He now works as a long-haul truck driver.
Earlier this week when, by phone, he recounted his Cruise encounter, Joines was in Cleveland, bound for Chicago with a load of Morton salt.
He thought back about his chance meeting with a Hollywood great.
“Man, that’s been a lonnnng time ago,” Joines said. “Can you imagine what the comments would have been if we had social media back then?”