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A bizarre crime spree earlier this month involving a joy ride in a stolen car and breaking into a school and a church, has law enforcement and victims alike shaking their heads in bafflement.
“It’s kinda nuts,” said Dennis Dove, executive minister at Shelby Christian Church, one of three facilities hit in a frenzy of burglary and vandalism by four Shelby County teens during the first week of June.
Shelby County Detective Jason Rice said that it all started June 1 with a break in at O’Brien Ford on Mount Eden Road during the early morning hours when the dealership was closed. Dylan Bruce, 18, is accused of entering the building, with a 15-year-old boy. After vandalizing the showroom, Bruce took the keys to a 2014 Ford Mustang and the pair drove a short distance before abandoning the car on Frankfort Road.
Bruce made a statement, so to speak, before walking away from the $31,000 car, Rice said, scratching the words “I was here,” on the car’s shiny new exterior with the ignition key.
Then on June 7, Bruce and the youth were joined by two others, Wesley Ray, 19, and Christopher Downing, 18, he said.
Rice said the four broke into Shelby County High School and went on a rampage with numerous fire extinguishers located in the building, spraying the extinguishers throughout the school, causing between $5,000 and $7,000 in damages.
“That stuff gets everywhere, inside lockers, in the rooms, on the floors and walls, up in the ceiling tiles – it’s a mess,” Rice said.
When asked what was stolen, Rice said, “Only the empty fire extinguishers.”
That same evening, three of them teenagers – this time without Ray – are accused of breaking into Shelby Christian Church.
Dennis Dove, executive minister at Shelby Christian, said stolen items, totaling $1,300, included a computer, a guitar, some electronics and other items.
“They broke a window and went backstage where the musicians hang out and they tossed the refrigerator and broke the coffee pot and did some vandalism there,” he said. “Not a ton, but in the hundreds of dollars.”
Dove said that the way the church was wrecked was a first in his experience.
“We have had electronic stolen at different times, but never had any vandalism before,” he said.
Allen Toll, manager of O’Brien Ford, mused about the oddness of it.
“It was strange,” he said. “They broke through the back glass and came in and threw a few things on the showroom floor and grabbed a set a keys and went back out the way they came in. [They] went out front and grabbed the Mustang and took it down the road a couple of miles. He didn’t go very far, just a couple of miles.”
All are charged with third-degree burglary and criminal mischief, both Class D felonies, carrying a prison sentence of 1 to 5 years. In addition, Bruce is charged with grand theft auto (more than $10,000 but less than $1 million), a Class C felony, punishable by 5 to 10 years in prison.
Rice said they were arrested June 13.
He added that Bruce was the ringleader of the group and said that as far as motivation, it was a combination of drinking and some authority figure issues.
“A lot of it was because of alcohol involvement; some of them may have had substance abuse problems as well,” he said. “They saw the opportunity at Shelby Christian to maybe make a little money off some of the things they had taken. The others were just pure, just you know, ‘I want to joy ride in a Mustang,’ and the high school was just pure criminal mischief, just wanting to go in there and make life hell on the high school people.”
The 15-year-old is a student at the high school, and Rice said the others, though adults, are not that far from their high school years.
“You’re talking about adults, but they’re not very far removed from there [juvenile status], so I guess they found a little joy and pleasure in that [school vandalism] as well,” he said.
Kerry Whitehouse, assistant superintendent of operations for Shelby County Schools, said he could not yet speak for what disciplinary steps would be taken toward the student.
“Obviously, we will be seeking reimbursement for damages and that type of thing,” he said. “Anytime there’s criminal activity on our campuses, law enforcement has the lead and whatever comes of that as far as disciplinary measures, charges, is what we rely upon heavily. Disciplinary measures will stem from what the law enforcement investigation finds, then that decision will be made before the student returns to school, but we have not had that conversation or meeting yet.”