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:
• 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.
“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.
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.