Three Teens Die in Crash of Stolen SUV, Pinellas Sheriff Says
By ANNE LINDBERG, TB Reporter
Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said deputies were not pursuing the SUV when it crashed.
PINELLAS COUNTY – Three youths who were playing a game of “cat and mouse” in a stolen SUV died in a crash early Sunday (Aug. 6), Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said.
Keontae Brown, 16; Jimmie Goshey, 14; and Dejarae Thomas, 16, were killed in the crash. Keondrae Brown, 14, who was in the vehicle, was taken to All Children’s Hospital. It is unclear how serious his injuries are.
Ricky Melendez, 29, who was in a car that was apparently hit by the stolen vehicle, was taken to Mease Countryside Hospital with minor injuries.
Kamal Campbell, 18, of Clearwater, and Deyon Kaigler, 16, who were in a second stolen car, have been charged with one count each of grand theft auto and resisting arrest without violence. Keondrae Brown was also charged with one count of grand theft, Gualtieri said during a press conference Monday (Aug. 7). The sheriff said more charges could be filed. Deputies are exploring the possibility of charging them with felony murder, a charge that can arise when someone dies during the commission of a felony. Those involved in committing the felony become responsible for the death.
“Unfortunately, this morning, we have three dead young black males as a result of them stealing cars … running from police,” Gualtieri said Sunday. Referring to what he called an “epidemic … deadly game of auto thefts, he added, “This is a sad situation. This is a terrible situation. Somehow this has got to stop.”
Gualtieri said the six boys involved in Sunday’s incident were in two vehicles – a 2015 Ford Explorer and a 2008 Chrysler Sebring – that had been stolen Thursday (Aug. 3) from Platinum Autos, 1361 S Missouri Ave. in Clearwater.
Deputies saw the Ford about 1 a.m. Sunday on State Road 580 and Belcher Road. Deputies attempted to conduct a traffic stop and the Ford Explorer fled. Deputies did not pursue the vehicle and lost sight as it fled. They confirmed that the Ford was a stolen vehicle and that the vehicle was on a “hot list” bulletin.
About three hours later, around 4 a.m., deputies once again spotted the Ford and the Sebring at East Lake Road north of Tampa Road. The two vehicles were running in tandem. They sped away from deputies and entered the East Lake Woodlands residential area. Deputies locked down a perimeter and sought the assistance of the flight unit, but were initially unable to locate the vehicles.
Gualtieri said it is believed that the teens were in the area to steal from cars. North Pinellas, he said, has had a “plethora of burglaries … probably committed by these kids” over the past few days. And, he said, one of the boys who died was wearing gloves.
A deputy traveling westbound on Tampa Road saw both the SUV and the car traveling west. The vehicles were again engaged in tandem in a game of “cat and mouse” while accelerating and decelerating. As a deputy attempted a traffic stop on the Ford on Tampa Road and Lake St. George, the Ford sped away at speeds exceeding 100 miles per hour. The deputy made a U-turn as he noticed the Sebring had decelerated behind him. The deputy was traveling eastbound on Tampa Road in the opposite direction of the Ford when the crash happened, Gualtieri said..
The Ford continued speeding on Tampa Road and “most likely ran the red light” at Tampa and U.S. 19 where it was reported to have hit a 1999 Toyota Camry driven by Melendez that was headed north on 19. The Ford went airborne and struck multiple parked vehicles in a car lot on the northwest corner of the intersection and continued to roll, flip and strike numerous fixed objects while still moving westbound on Tampa Road where it burst into flames before coming to rest.
Two of the boys were found dead in the Ford and the other two were thrown from the vehicle, Gualtieri said. One died and one survived.
The Chrysler continued south on U.S. 19. Deputies said they found the abandoned Sebring near the intersection of 19 and Sunset Point Road. A short time later the two occupants, Kaigler and Campbell, who had fled on foot, were taken into custody with the help of the K-9 unit.
Gualtieri said the youths were “prolific offenders” who had “extremely extensive criminal histories.” One had been released from the Pinellas County Juvenile Detention Center on Monday (July 31). The teens were being being monitored by the department’s HOME, or habitual offender monitoring enforcement, unit.
The vehicle thefts, he said, were the latest in a “prolific and epidemic … deadly game of auto thefts.” The situation is one that plays out across the county daily, he said. Kids aged 14, 15, and 16 steal cars, go joyriding, use the cars so they can go elsewhere in the county to break into other vehicles, and then play cat and mouse.
The problem is that kids think they won’t get hurt and the parents don’t take responsibility for their children’s whereabouts and actions, the sheriff said.
“Someone needs to start taking control of their kids,” Gualtieri said.
This is the second fatal crash involving juveniles who were in a stolen car. Three girls – Dominique M. Battle, 16; Ashaunti N. Butler, 15; and Laniya D. Miller, 15 – died March 31, 2016, when the stolen car they were driving went into a pond at the Royal Palm Cemetery, 2600 Gandy Blvd. Gualtieri said then that deputies were unable to rescue the girls.
Deputies said they are seeking the public’s help in identifying vehicle and/or home burglaries that may have occurred in the north Clearwater, East Lake, Safety Harbor and Palm Harbor areas that may be related to the teens involved in this morning’s crash. Anyone with information that might help investigators or anyone who might have been a victim of a vehicle or home burglary in those areas is asked to contact the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office by calling the non-emergency number at (727) 582-6200.
For information about the Pinellas sheriff, go to pcsoweb.com.
To see videos of the crash, go to youtube.com.
For a video of today’s (Aug. 7) press conference with Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, go to youtube.com.
Photos, which include screen shots from today’s (Aug. 7) Press conference with Sheriff Bob Gualtieri and pictures from videos showing the crash are courtesy of the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office.
Pinellas Sheriff | Bob Gualtieri | Juveniles Killed | Crime | Crash | Arrests | Tampa Bay News | TB Reporter
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