Two St. Louis men suspected to be part of a group spotted Wednesday morning (Nov. 13) going through unlocked vehicles in an Imperial neighborhood are facing numerous charges, authorities reported.
The two men, Jahniy Dowdy and Raymon R. Manley, both 17, were among five suspects arrested later on Wednesday, following a police chase and manhunt.
Today, 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 are being held today at the Jefferson County Jail on a $100,000 cash-only bond.
Of the five suspects arrested, three are adults and two are juveniles, Sheriff’s Office spokesman Grant Bissell said. The Sheriff's Office did not provide the ages for the juveniles.
The Sheriff’s Office expects charges to be filed today against the third adult, a 28-year-old St. Louis man, also suspected in the incident, which began early on Wednesday.
At about 4 a.m., the Sheriff’s Office got a call about a suspicious person who appeared to be stealing from vehicles in the Castle Heights subdivision in the 6100 block of Old Antonia Road in Imperial, Sheriff’s Office spokesman Grant Bissell said.
Later, one of the suspects was arrested coming out of a home on East Miller Road, and the other four suspects were found in a car that was pulled over around 8 a.m. for a traffic violation on Imperial Main Street, Detective Lt. Brian Taylor said.
Inside that car, deputies found guns that allegedly had been stolen in Pevely on Tuesday night (Nov. 12).
Pevely Police Capt. Larry Miller confirmed the guns were stolen from his jurisdiction, but he said Wednesday afternoon that the reports were still being processed, so he didn’t have further details.
Taylor said the Sheriff’s Office is familiar with the five suspects, 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.”
As of Wednesday afternoon, the Sheriff’s Office had received three to four reports about thefts of items from vehicles in the Castle Heights subdivision earlier that morning.
When deputies arrived at the subdivision Wednesday morning, they saw the suspects leaving the area in a vehicle, and deputies put a spike strip on the road in an effort to disable it. However, the driver avoided the spikes and nearly ran into the deputy who had placed the spike strip. The deputy avoided being hit and was not injured, Bissell said.
The vehicle continued east on Old Antonia Road, where another deputy set up another spike strip. The suspect driving the vehicle hit the second set of spikes, but continued to drive east, crossing the I-55 overpass on Imperial Main Street. Eventually, though, the driver had to stop and pulled into the H.W. Herrell Distributing Co. lot at 1002 White St., just off Imperial Main, and the suspects ran away, Bissell said.
Taylor would not identify the vehicle the suspects fled in and left at H.W. Herrell because it was still being searched. He did say it had been reported stolen from a different jurisdiction.
Deputies began patrolling the area and apprehended one suspect coming out of a home in the 1000 block of East Miller Road, near where the police pursuit ended, Bissell said.
Taylor said at least two residents were inside the home, and a deputy happened to be driving by it when the suspect was forced out by the residents.
“They had no idea who the individual was,” Taylor said. “As a result of the manhunt, one (deputy) was driving by the house and saw (a suspect) being forced out of the residence and took him into custody immediately.”
The four other suspects were arrested at the Mobile On the Run gas station, 1111 Imperial Main Road, in a different vehicle that was stopped because of an equipment malfunction, Taylor said.
As of Wednesday afternoon, the driver of that vehicle had not been connected to the alleged thefts and was not arrested, Taylor 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.”
Last month Sheriff Dave Marshak announced he was stepping up patrols in subdivisions located near highways and interstates after a man who lives in the Summerfield Parkside Estates subdivision off Seckman Road near the Mastodon State Historic Site in Imperial spotted an alleged would-be thief, confronted him and was shot at but not struck.
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 attempt to steal items from unlocked vehicles.
He said the groups have ranged from three to as many as nine people attempting to steal from unlocked cars.
“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 have primarily 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.”