Thursday, April 19, 2018
Public safety

Sheriff releases video showing teens reaching 140 mph before fatal Palm Harbor SUV crash

Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri held a news conference Monday afternoon in which he showed dash-cam footage from the first officer to respond to the Palm Harbor crash. Here is some of what he said in the news conference:

TIMELINE:Three boys died in a stolen vehicle: Here's how it unfolded (w/video)

• The sheriff said the deputies did not pursue the stolen vehicles. He said deputies unsuccessfully tried to cordon them inside East Lake Woodlands. The teens in the two cars were spooked by the sheriff's helicopter flying overhead and drove off.

• The teens had parked the stolen vehicles at an apartment complex. Before they went out to try to break into other cars, an argument broke out in the parking lot over who would drive. Dejarae Thomas pulled out a handgun and pointed it at one of the other teens before the argument subsided and all six boys went to Kamal Campbell's apartment to smoke marijuana, the sheriff said.

• The three survivors admitted that they were out committing car burglaries and they all knew that they were in stolen vehicles, he said.

• At one point, the teens were driving between 120-140 mph, the sheriff said, and ran a red light at about 100 mph.

• Before the crash, the two cars were "accelerating, slowing down, accelerating, slowing down and going around" each other in a cat-and-mouse game, he said.

• Two of the teens were ejected from the Ford Explorer when it crashed. One died, the other survived. Two other teens were trapped inside and died at the scene.

• "The amount of force was phenomenal," the sheriff said.

•The Pinellas County Sheriff's Office is considering felony murder charges for the survivors of the crash. Currently, they are facing charges of grand theft auto and resisting arrest without violence. When someone is killed while in the process of another person committing a felony, that person can be charged with felony murder.

•In part, Gualtieri blamed the epidemic on a lack of consequences and said the felony murder charges might be able to correct that.

•In the weeks leading up to the wreck, many of the boys had posted pictures of themselves on Facebook with guns and money, in front of cars like a BMW, that were likely stolen.

• "Why would a kid like Dejarae Thomas, who's been arrested 15 times, post that stuff on Facebook if he cared and thought there were consequences for his actions?" Gualtieri said.

Stop back to tampabay.com for more updates.

•••

Two 16-year-old boys with a history of stealing cars sat on Tina Webber's porch last week, and she issued them a stern warning: "I looked them right in the eye, and said, 'Keep stealing cars, and you're going to wind up dead or in prison.'"

Those boys, friends of Webber's sons, were Deyon Kaigler and Keontae Brown. Early Sunday morning, Keontae died when the stolen Ford Explorer he was riding in crashed in Palm Harbor. On Monday morning, Deyon appeared in court, accused of taking a Chrysler Sebring seen speeding alongside the Explorer just before the crash.

TOP STORY: Three boys dead after fiery crash in stolen SUV, Pinellas sheriff says

"I can't keep doing this. I can't without answers," Webber said outside the courtroom Monday. "These kids are going to keep dying, whether they're dying in a car or in prison. Because they're young and dumb and don't know nothing."

Authorities said Deyon was driving the Sebring, which had been playing a "cat and mouse" game with the Explorer on Tampa Road near U.S. 19. Two other boys died at the scene — Jimmie Goshey, 14, and Dejarae Thomas, 16 — and Keontae's brother, 14-year-old Keondrae Brown, was hospitalized and remained in stable condition Monday at Bayfront Health St. Petersburg. Kamal Campbell, 18, was arrested with Deyon in the Sebring.

Deyon's mother, Demetria Coley, wiped tears from her eyes as Deyon appeared in juvenile court, his hands clasped behind his back and his chin tucked down.

She said she spoke to her son last night when he called from the Juvenile Detention Center. He said he watched his friends crash, the car rolling and spinning down the road as it burst into flames. "All he saw was just bodies flying out the window," Coley said.

"I just cried and he cried. And he was like, "'I don't want to do this anymore.'"

Judge Patrice Moore ordered Deyon held at the detention center for the legal maximum of 21 days.

Later Monday, Campbell was ordered held on $25,000 bail. He appeared by video conference from the Pinellas County Jail, hands clasped behind his back in a baggy orange jumpsuit.

Prosecutors listed his many juvenile arrests and asked that he be held on $20,000 bail. Judge John Carballo went above that amount, saying that Campbell might be a flight risk because he ran away from deputies the night of his arrest.

Campbell apparently did not have any family or friends in the audience. If he posts bond, he will have to wear a GPS ankle monitor and stay away from Deyon and Keondrae

The death of the three boys is the latest tragedy in a juvenile auto theft epidemic sweeping Pinellas County, where officers arrest more kids for stealing cars than anywhere else in Florida.

The deadly trend was the subject of Hot Wheels, a recent Tampa Bay Times series that found kids in Pinellas crash stolen cars every four days.

HOT WHEELS: How kids are driving Pinellas County's car-theft epidemic

One of the reasons auto theft is so popular among children, reporters found, is that the juvenile system rarely assigns tough consequences for grand theft auto, a property crime.

Sheriff Bob Gualtieri on Sunday called the local crime epidemic "a deadly game."

"They think that they're Teflon, they think that they're not going to get hurt by this," Gualtieri said. "When you have 14-, 15-, 16-year-olds that are dying because of their actions, it needs to stop."

Both the Ford Explorer and the Chrysler Sebring it was speeding with were stolen Thursday from a car dealership in Clearwater. Deputies spotted the vehicles early Sunday morning turning into a subdivision in Oldsmar, where there had been a recent rash of burglaries.

Kaigler is a student at Calvin A. Hunsinger School who works at a Kentucky Fried Chicken in Dunedin. He has a history of arrests, which includes charges of grand theft auto and burglary.

Campbell is a student at Dunedin High School. His criminal record includes charges of robbery with a firearm and vehicle theft, according to state records, which indicate that he lives in Clearwater.

The sheriff is expected to release more details of the crash Monday afternoon.

This is a developing story. Stay with tampabay.com for updates.

MORE COVERAGE:

TOP STORY: Three boys dead after fiery crash in stolen SUV, Pinellas sheriff says

VIGIL: Friends, family gather in Clearwater to remember teens who died in SUV crash

THE KIDS: Six teens involved in stolen car crash have troubled histories

5 WAYS: fficials are trying to stop Pinellas teen car thieves

     
           
Comments
Teen, 16, walks into path of motorcycle while crossing Ulmerton Road

Teen, 16, walks into path of motorcycle while crossing Ulmerton Road

PINELLAS PARK — A 16-year-old was injured Thursday morning after being struck by a motorcycle on Ulmerton Road, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.The crash took place at about 6 a.m. Austin Montgomery, 23, was riding his 2011 Suzuki motorcycle ...
Updated: 11 minutes ago
Police: Knife-wielding burglar breaks into house, says ‘I’m the cops’

Police: Knife-wielding burglar breaks into house, says ‘I’m the cops’

LARGO — Detectives are asking the public’s help in identifying a man who broke into a home and confronted the owners with a knife.According to Largo police, the man entered about 3:40 a.m. a townhouse at 7360 Ulmerton Road holding a large black knife...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Retiring Tampa cop’s son pleads guilty to hazing in death of FSU student

Retiring Tampa cop’s son pleads guilty to hazing in death of FSU student

TAMPA — A Leon County judge sentenced the son of former Tampa Assistant Police Chief Marc Hamlin on Monday to 60 days in jail for a role in the November hazing death of a 20-year-old Florida State University student. Christopher Hamlin, 20, was one o...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Child, 19 months, hospitalized after being found in New Port Richey pond

Child, 19 months, hospitalized after being found in New Port Richey pond

NEW PORT RICHEY — A 19-month-old child was transported to a local hospital Thursday after being found unattended in a pond, according to the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office.Deputies said they were dispatched to a pond behind a home in the 4700 block of...
Updated: 4 hours ago
FHP: Distracted driver plunges more than 50 feet off I-275 in St. Petersburg

FHP: Distracted driver plunges more than 50 feet off I-275 in St. Petersburg

ST. PETERSBURG — A distracted driver from Pinellas Park walked away unscathed after his car plunged 50 feet off Interstate 275.Thomas Highhouse, 61, of Pinellas Park, was driving his 2016 Chevy Camero along Interstate 275 around 11:10 a.m. when he lo...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Deputies: Schwettman student charged in threat on River Ridge High

Deputies: Schwettman student charged in threat on River Ridge High

NEW PORT RICHEY—A Schwettman Education Center student was arrested Wednesday after he threatened an attack on River Ridge High School, according to the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office.The student, 15, is facing a charge of falsely reporting a bomb or f...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Deputies: Seminole man burglarizes house, then sets it on fire

Deputies: Seminole man burglarizes house, then sets it on fire

SEMINOLE — A Seminole man was arrested Wednesday night after detectives linked him to the burglary of a house that was later set on fire.Homeowner Lance Clipper, 52, reported the burglary when he arrived at his house, 8350 Flame Vine Ave., around 2:4...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Teen, 16, killed in Hernando crash; 17-year-old critically injured

Teen, 16, killed in Hernando crash; 17-year-old critically injured

BROOKSVILLE — A 16-year-old boy was killed and a 17-year-old boy critically injured after their car was struck by a pick-up truck at the intersection of U.S. 19 and Country Road on Wednesday afternoon, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.The cras...
Published: 04/18/18
Updated: 04/19/18
Largo police release video as State Attorney clears officer in shooting

Largo police release video as State Attorney clears officer in shooting

LARGO — The Pasco-Pinellas state attorney cleared a Largo police officer who fatally shot a 30-year-old man last month.The letter from State Attorney Bernie McCabe said Officer Matthew Steiner was "in imminent fear for his life" during the March 23 e...
Published: 04/18/18
Six children hurt as school bus overturns in Hernando crash

Six children hurt as school bus overturns in Hernando crash

Alexander Segovia, 33, of Ocala, was hauling toilet paper in the 2017 truck south on I-75 and exited at S.R. 50, the FHP said. He was driving in the west outside lane, trooper said, when he failed to make a full stop at a red light, partially entered...
Published: 04/18/18