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Five people suspected of vehicle break-ins around the county have been arrested, and authorities believe they may be part of a larger group coming from outside the county to steal from unlocked vehicles here.

The Sheriff’s Office has connected four of those suspects, all of St. Louis, to thefts from vehicles on Nov. 13 in the Castle Heights subdivision off Old Antonia Road in Imperial, Sheriff’s Office Capt. Gary Higginbotham said. Those four suspects were arrested the morning of Nov. 13 following a manhunt and police chase in Imperial.

Higginbotham said the Sheriff’s Office received reports about similar vehicle break-ins in the Arnold and Imperial areas early Monday morning.

According to those reports, three men rode around in a car through Imperial neighborhoods and two of the men would get out of the car and pull on vehicle door handles.

Charges have been filed against Jahniy Dowdy and Raymon R. Manley, both 17, in connection with the Nov. 13 thefts in the Castle Heights subdivision, according to court documents.

In addition, two St. Louis juveniles, one 15 years old and the other 16 years old, were arrested in connection with the Nov. 13 vehicle break-ins and were turned over to juvenile authorities, Higginbotham said.

He said Dowdy, Manley and the two juveniles were still in custody as of Monday morning.

Delean D. Germany, 28, of Barnhart also was arrested Nov. 13, after he allegedly was found coming out of a duplex unit in the 1000 block of East Miller Road near where the manhunt ended on Imperial Main Street close to I-55. Germany was wanted by the Sheriff’s Office for previous drug offenses, Higginbotham said.

Initially, authorities thought Germany had played a role in the thefts in the Imperial subdivision. However, as of Monday, he has not been connected to car break-ins, Higginbotham said.

The Sheriff’s Office also arrested Danny Travell Harris of St. Louis on Sept. 8 for allegedly breaking into cars in unincorporated Fenton, operating similarly to the group arrested in Imperial, Higginbotham said

In October, Sheriff Dave Marshak announced he was stepping up patrols because of numerous reports of groups stealing from vehicles in subdivisions around the county, especially ones located near highways and interstates. One of those incidents occurred Oct. 18 in the Summerfield Parkside Estates subdivision off Seckman Road near the Mastodon State Historic Site in Imperial, where a man spotted an alleged would-be thief, confronted him and was shot at but not struck.

On Nov. 13, Detective Lt. Brian Taylor said the Sheriff’s Office and other agencies around Jefferson, St. Louis, St. Charles and Franklin counties have identified groups coming from St. Louis to steal items from unlocked vehicles.

He said the groups have ranged from three to as many as nine people attempting to steal from the vehicles.

“This has been a huge problem over the last several months,” Taylor said. “This is a violent group of people we are dealing with. They have no regard for police authority. They will run and do whatever they can to escape. We also know from an incident off Seckman Road they fired a weapon at a victim. We do caution people from making contact with these people.

“There is no reason why they pick particular subdivisions. The only thing we can figure at this point is close proximity to the highway seems to be a pretty consistent thing with our jurisdiction and others.”

Taylor said the thieves primarily have been stealing money, firearms and other small items from unlocked vehicles. He said they appear to avoid taking electronics that can be traced.

He said the thefts believed to be connected to the groups began in July and have increased in the last several weeks.

“We encourage people to lock their vehicles,” Taylor said. “We understand mistakes happen, but do your best to keep your vehicle locked. Also, items like keys or firearms, it is best to secure those items inside your residence so they don’t get into the hands of the wrong people.”

Dowdy and Manley are facing multiple charges for their alleged roles in the break-ins that occurred in the Castle Heights subdivision in the 2200 block of Warwick Castle Drive in Imperial, court documents said.

Dowdy was charged with first-degree tampering with a motor vehicle and stealing a firearm, both class D felonies, and resisting arrest, a class E felony. Manley was charged with stealing a firearm, a class D felony, and second-degree tampering with a motor vehicle, a class A misdemeanor, according to court records.

Each of the class D felonies is punishable by up to seven years in prison, the class E felony is punishable by up to four years in prison and the misdemeanor is punishable by up to one year in jail and a possible fine up to $2,000.

Both men were being held Nov. 15 at the Jefferson County Jail on a $100,000 cash-only bond.

Germany has been charged with possession of a controlled substance, a class D felony, and possession of drug paraphernalia, a class D misdemeanor, stemming from a May 15 incident in Jefferson County. He also has been charged with first-degree trespassing, a class B misdemeanor, tied to the Nov. 13 incident, court records show.

A class B misdemeanor is punishable by up to six months in jail and a fine of no more than $1,000, and a class D misdemeanor is punishable by a fine of up to $500.

Harris was charged Nov. 8 with first-degree burglary, a class B felony punishable by a minimum of five years and no more than 15 years in prison. As of Nov. 15, he was being held in Jefferson County Jail on a $50,000 cash-only bond.

Manhunt

At about 4 a.m. Nov. 13, the Sheriff’s Office got a call about a suspicious person who appeared to be stealing from vehicles in the Castle Heights subdivision, a probable-cause statement said

When deputies arrived at the subdivision, they saw the suspects leaving the area in a Toyota, which later was determined to have been stolen in Illinois, the report said.

The first deputy to encounter the men in the Toyota turned on the patrol vehicle’s emergency lights and tried to stop the car, but the driver did not yield and instead allegedly attempted to strike the deputy’s vehicle. A second deputy’s vehicle also was nearly struck by the Toyota when the driver allegedly swerved at the cruiser on Warwick Castle Drive, according to the report.

A third deputy had deployed a spike strip on Warwick Castle Drive to try to stop the Toyota. However, the driver left the road and allegedly attempted to hit the deputy who was standing on the side of the road, the report said.

None of the deputies were injured during the encounter, authorities reported.

Later, the Toyota ran over a spike strip on Old Antonia Road, but the driver continued east, crossing the I-55 overpass on Imperial Main Street. Eventually, though, the driver had to stop and pulled behind the H.W. Herrell Distributing Co. lot at 1002 White St., just off Imperial Main, the report said.

The suspects then got out of the Toyota and ran into a wooded area. Inside the Toyota, deputies found a .40-caliber handgun that had been reported stolen in Pevely, a probable-cause statement said.

Deputies were able to identify Dowdy as a suspect in previous thefts similar to the one in the Castle Heights subdivision, and a deputy looked up Dowdy’s Facebook page titled “BossedUpJohnny,” which featured a “live-feed video” showing three men in the woods asking for help. The men in the video said they had $75 and a “Glock” pistol they would give someone to come and get them, a report said.

The men also made comments about getting “spiked” and running from police, the probable-cause statement said.

A silver and black handgun was seen in the video, and it was later identified as another gun stolen in Pevely, the report said.

Sheriff’s Office deputies continued to patrol the area and increased traffic stops for driving violations, Taylor said.

A deputy stopped a car for an equipment malfunction at about 8 a.m. at the Mobile On the Run gas station, 1111 Imperial Main Road. Inside that car, which was not involved in the reported thefts in the Imperial subdivision, deputies located Dowdy, Manley and the two juveniles, according to reports.

Along with the four suspects, deputies found two guns – one that was seen in the Facebook video – in the car near Dowdy, the report said.

Pevely Police Capt. Larry Miller confirmed the guns were stolen from his jurisdiction.

The driver of the vehicle deputies pulled over at the gas station told authorities “he was contacted and asked to come to Jefferson County to give the males a ride back to St. Louis,” the probable-cause statement said.

“I would say it was good policing,” Taylor said. “Officers were very active in the area, stopping as many vehicles as they could. That led to the result of them being apprehended.”

Taylor said the Sheriff’s Office is familiar with the two men and juveniles arrested at the gas station, adding that they could be connected to a larger group believed to be coming from outside the county and targeting unlocked vehicles in subdivisions near highways or interstates.

“These people, we believe are a smaller part of a much larger group,” Taylor said. “If they are associated with the group that we believe they might be, I would say we are close to the 50-or-60 range (of thefts from vehicles in the county) that we could tie them to.”

Dowdy was uncooperative with deputies, and allegedly threw feces and caused a disorder in the Jefferson County Jail, the probable-cause statement said.

Manley allegedly admitted to knowing he was a passenger in a stolen car and fleeing from police after the Toyota was stopped, a report said.

The juveniles allegedly told authorities that Dowdy had stolen the Toyota in St. Louis. They also allegedly admitted to coming to the county in a stolen car with the intent to steal from vehicles and running from officers, the report said.

Along with the three guns stolen out of Pevely, deputies said they found several items stolen throughout Jefferson County, the probable-cause statement said.

Trespassing

Germany was arrested allegedly coming out of the home on East Miller Road before the suspects were apprehended at the gas station.

A neighbor reportedly saw Germany enter the unlocked duplex unit, and a mother and daughter who were inside the unit told authorities that Germany came into the home and sat down on a bench in the dining room. The victims said they asked Germany what he was doing, and after he mumbled something they couldn’t understand, he moved to the living room and sat on a couch, the probable-cause statement said.

The victims and neighbor ushered Germany out of the home, and a deputy responding to the neighbor’s 911 call about the man entering the duplex unit arrested him, according to the report.

Higginbotham said the Sheriff’s Office cannot link Germany to the Nov. 13 car break-ins at this time.

Fenton incident

Sheriff’s Office deputies were able to identify and locate Harris after allegedly finding his fingerprint on vehicles in a garage in the 400 block of Winter Bluff Drive in unincorporated Fenton, the probable-cause statement said.

The Sheriff’s Office was told that during the overnight hours between Sept. 7 and Sept. 8, several items were stolen from an unlocked Chevrolet Traverse parked inside that garage. A fingerprint also was found on a Chevrolet Cruze parked in the garage, the report said.

The prints matched Harris, who was connected to a person who allegedly used a credit card stolen from the Traverse in St. Louis County, according to the report.

Surveillance video from the neighborhood showed two men attempting to open vehicle doors at 1:47 a.m. Sept. 8 in the Fenton-area subdivision. The Sheriff’s Office also received three reports of similar thefts from vehicles that night, a report said.

Monday incidents

Higginbotham said five people told the Sheriff’s Office that items were stolen from their vehicles shortly after midnight Monday in subdivisions around Arnold and Imperial.

Higginbotham said a car drove through the neighborhoods with one man staying in the driver’s seat and two others getting out to attempt to open vehicle doors.

He said the reported thefts occurred on Caleb Drive and in the Carlton Manor and Creekside subdivisions, all in the Arnold area.

Higginbotham also said the Sheriff’s Office was called at about 4 a.m. Monday about a similar car and three men traveling through a subdivision on Glenstone Drive off Old Hwy. M in Imperial.

As of Monday morning, no one had reported anything stolen in that neighborhood, Higginbotham said.

He said it is unknown if those three men were working in conjunction with any of the suspects the Sheriff’s Office recently arrested who had used a similar method of stealing or attempting to steal from vehicles in the county.

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