Saturday, July 21, 2018
Public safety

Q&A: 8 teens are dead. Here's a guide to Pinellas County's car theft epidemic

Two days after a joyride in a stolen car left three teen boys dead in Palm Harbor, the injured have left hospitals and surviving suspects have been charged.

Now Pinellas County sheriff's deputies are analyzing harrowing video and data from a fiery crash. They've talked to the 14-year-old boy who survived it and apprehended two other teens who they say were inside a second stolen vehicle that fled.

It's just the latest tragedy in a crisis that has plagued Pinellas County for more than two years: teens stealing cars with few consequences, at least until something goes terribly wrong.

The Tampa Bay Times has covered the topic extensively through its "Hot Wheels" series this year.

It's a complex topic. So let's break down some of the basics.

Just how fast were the boys going Sunday?

According to information from the stolen Ford Explorer's crash data recorder released Tuesday, the sport utility vehicle was travelling 117 mph 2.5 seconds before impact. At the moment it hit the Toyota Camry in the intersection of U.S. 19 and Tampa Road, it was going 112 mph.

What's happened the surviving boys involved in the crash so far?

Keondrae Brown, 14, the surviving brother of one of the teens killed, will be held in juvenile detention for 21 days, a judge decided on Tuesday morning.

On Monday, the boys who were in the other stolen car — a Chrysler Sebring that did not crash — went before a judge. Deyon Kaigler, 16, and Kamal Campbell, 18, are facing charges of grand theft auto and resisting an officer. Deyon also was ordered held for the maximum 21 days in the Juvenile Detention Center. Kamal, an adult, was held in the Pinellas County Jail on $25,000 bail.

How often are teens here crashing stolen cars? And how many have died?

A Times analysis shows that kids are crashing stolen cars every four days in Pinellas. Sunday's crash brings to eight the number of teenage car thieves who have died in the Tampa Bay area in the past two years.

Who are the eight teens who have died?

The three boys who died in Sunday's crash are: Keontae Brown, 16, Jimmie Goshey, 14, and Dejarae Thomas, 16.

In March 2016, three teenaged St. Petersburg girls died after the stolen car they were riding in plunged to the bottom of a cemetery pond. They are: Dominique Battle, 16, Laniya D. Miller, 15 and Ashaunti Butler, 15.

On Oct. 26 2015, 18-year-old Kobvey Igbuhay was driving a stolen SUV when he failed to pull over for a police officer. A Tampa officer shot Igbuhay after police said the two fought in swampy water during a foot chase.

The day after Christmas later that year, 17-year-old Jaquez Jackson was in a stolen Lexus that was shot-up by teens in another stolen car in St. Petersburg.

What happens to kids who are caught driving or stealing cars?

In most cases, people younger than 18 can only be detained for 21 days after their arrest because it is a limit set in state law. There is no bail in the juvenile system, so the restriction prevents a child from being held indefinitely while awaiting trial. Judges say the limit used to cover a long enough period of time to keep a child and finish a trial, but with hearings and long delays, defendants today often end up getting out before they are tried and sentenced. Teens say serving the 21 days is easy and not a deterrent.

Will any of the surviving teens in the latest crash be charged more seriously because the crash resulted in a death?

Ultimately, the Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney's Office determines what charges each teen will face. It is possible for the State Attorney to charge them as adults. Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri has said he might suggest more serious charges against the surviving teens, but experts say it could be tough. The charge the sheriff has discussed, felony murder, usually is leveled if a person is killed during the commission of, or attempt to commit, other specified crimes. One of those crimes is burglary, which the boys admitted to committing in the time leading up to the crash.

Have any other questions about our ongoing coverage? Email: [email protected]

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