Wednesday, September 26, 2018
Public safety

Wrong Way: At 15, he was the county's No. 1 car thief. He had every reason to stop.

Isaiah Battle believes in heaven. When he pictures it, everything is gold, everyone sitting on couches among clouds. He is not sure if people in heaven have to share rooms. But if they do, he hopes he can share one with his sister, Dominique.

They shared one on earth, in St. Petersburg, back before she drowned in a stolen car in a cemetery pond. Two beds where they'd lie side by side and joke about their boyfriends, girlfriends, school. Smoke weed and watch whatever was on TV. Tell each other I love you before lights out each night.

The many things they shared also included the backseat of a police cruiser. In the year before his sister died, Isaiah was the kid arrested the most for stealing cars in Pinellas County: a Camry from a driveway, a Porsche from a man pumping gas. He did donuts in a silver minivan and took his hands off the wheel of a Hyundai, holding them above his head like he was on a rollercoaster, laughing.

HOT WHEELS: Kids are driving Pinellas County's car-theft epidemic. It's a dangerous — sometimes deadly — game.

And she did it, too. When Isaiah was first caught driving a stolen car, Dominique was one of his passengers. She laughed as police handcuffed her, told them it wasn't a big deal.

Isaiah went to her wake in shackles, sentenced for his own crimes. He cried over his sister's body. He swore he'd never steal a car again.

But nine months later, Isaiah took an Acura. He sped through the St. Pete night with his headlights switched off, blowing stop signs and running red lights.

Why did he do it? After everything that happened, how could he keep stealing cars?

READ THE FULL STORY: At 15, he was the county's No. 1 car thief. He had every reason to stop.

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