ST. PETERSBURG — A county suffering from what officials call a car theft "epidemic" saw another stolen car crash endangering lives Saturday.
Police say four men between 18 and 20 stole a Hyundai and crashed it into another car, seriously injuring two women.
Earlier that day, someone flagged down a St. Petersburg police officer to report "a carload of men in a Hyundai pointing a gun at someone," the agency reported. An officer later saw that car speeding on 18th Avenue S but didn't chase the car.
Then, about 2:40 p.m., the car crashed into a blue PT Cruiser at the intersection of 18th Avenue S and 25th Street S.
Responders took Mae Speights, 67, and her 46-year-old daughter Yalanda Speights to Bayfront Health St. Petersburg with serious injuries. Yalanda Speights was listed in critical condition.
Police then arrested the four men in the Hyundai, all of whom suffered minor injuries. They were booked Saturday night into Pinellas County Jail.
Carl McKinley, 20; Lazarius Faulk, 19; Clifford Washington, 19; and Jaquez Rouse, 18, all face felony charges of grand theft motor vehicle.
Washington and Rouse faced no other charges. Both were held in lieu of $5,000 bail; Washington was released Sunday morning.
Faulk and McKinley, however, have been in trouble before and were also charged with probation violation.
In 2016, Faulk, then 17, was arrested as part of a crackdown on a group of people who stole an estimated 76 vehicles from across the Tampa Bay region.
According to an affidavit, another teenager told detectives that he, Faulk and others were picked up in a stolen truck in Pinellas County, and the group drove to Sarasota County to try to break into more vehicles.
Sarasota deputies caught Faulk with three other teenagers after a man saw them trying to open car doors in Venice. Faulk later pleaded guilty to felony burglary and grand theft of a motor vehicle. He was given two years probation, starting in July 2017.
McKinley was arrested in 2016 and later pleaded guilty to burglary and dealing in stolen property. According to an arrest affidavit, he broke into a home and stole a laptop, which he later pawned.
In the past three years, 11 teenagers have died in crashes connected to auto theft. The epidemic is mostly mostly perpetuated by teenagers taking vehicles and speeding across cities. The Tampa Bay Times chronicled the crisis in a 2017 series called "Hot Wheels," which demonstrated how flaws in the juvenile justice system coupled with social pressures are fueling the crime wave. Kids crashed stolen cars an average of once every four days, the series showed.
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The stolen Hyundai crash came less than a week after two teenagers died when the stolen car they were driving ran into a tree and burst into flames. Damari Milton, 18, and Dequante Lightsey, 16, like Faulk, had been charged with auto theft before.
Editor's Note: A prior version of this story misidentified Yalanda Speights.
Kirby Wilson contributed reporting. Contact Langston Taylor at email@example.com.