Three men and two juveniles arrested this morning (Nov. 13) in Imperial could be connected to a rash of thefts from vehicles throughout Jefferson County and the greater St. Louis area, said Detective Lt. Brian Taylor of the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office.
After a police chase, the five suspects, who are from St. Louis, were arrested after the Sheriff’s Office got a call around 4 a.m. 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.
One of the suspects was arrested coming out of a home on East Miller Road, and four were found in a car that was pulled over around 8 a.m. for a traffic violation on Imperial Main Street, Taylor said.
One of the three adult suspects is 28 and the other two are 17. The Sheriff's Office did not provide the ages for the juveniles.
During a 1 p.m. press conference, Taylor said the suspects were being interviewed, and the Sheriff’s Office could seek charges ranging from felony car theft to felony or misdemeanor theft to resisting arrest and possibly illegal possession of firearms. Deputies reportedly found guns in the car that four of the suspects were in, and the guns 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 the reports were still being processed this afternoon, so he didn’t have further details.
Taylor said the Sheriff’s Office is familiar with the five people arrested, and the suspects 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 this afternoon, the Sheriff’s Office had received three to four reports about thefts of items from vehicles in the Castle Heights subdivision.
When deputies arrived at the subdivision this morning, they saw the suspects’ vehicle leaving the area, Bissell said.
Deputies put a spike strip on the road in an effort to disable the vehicle. The driver avoided the spikes, but 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 driver hit the second set of spikes, but continued to drive east, crossing the I-55 overpass on Imperial Main Street, Bissell said.
The driver eventually had to stop and pulled into the H.W. Herrell Distributing Co. lot at 1002 White St., just off Imperial Main, and then fled on foot, Bissell said.
Taylor said the Sheriff’s Office was not identifying the vehicle the suspects fled in because it was still being searched. He did say it was reported stolen from a different jurisdiction.
Deputies apprehended one suspect coming out of a home in the 1000 block of East Miller Road, near where the 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.”
Four others connected to the alleged car theft were arrested at the Mobile On the Run gas station, 1111 Imperial Main Road. The car they were in was stopped because of an equipment malfunction, Taylor said.
As of this afternoon, the driver 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 that 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.
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.”