Kids Gone Wild

Kids Gone Wild

By Chief Joel F. Shults, Ed.D

Kids say the darnedest things, but sometimes they do the darnedest things. A 9-year-old boy in Oroville, CA decided to drive himself to school in the family Volkswagon sedan. When a California Highway Patrol officer saw the car oddly stationary in an intersection, the officer instructed the driver to move the vehicle and the car sped off. A short chase ensued ending near the boy’s elementary school. The boy put the VW in reverse, striking a CHP patrol car and the episode came to an end when the boy stuck his head out the window and said “I’m trying to get to school”. No one was injured.

In a less benign incident, a 14-year-old carjacking suspect led Fayette County, GA deputies on a chase before being apprehended. The young driver drove through yards and collided with other vehicles in a car that had been reported stolen. After crashing into a vehicle, the boy emerged with a handgun, which he dropped when ordered by the officers.

A teenage girl walked into a Los Angeles County Sheriff’s office and began yelling and banging on the glass. When a deputy opened a door to speak with the unidentified female, she lunged into a lobby area. She reached for the deputy’s gun and, after a struggle, managed to gain control of the weapon, and used it to shoot herself fatally.

In Houston, a trio of boys ages 11, 12, and 16 were taken into custody for bank robbery. The three walked into a Wells Fargo bank and handed a teller a threatening note. They fled with an undisclosed amount of cash. Police released surveillance photos of the trio, labeled The Little Rascals,  to the media asking for help in identifying them. Tips led to their arrest, including a call from parents of two of the boys. A third was arrested at the scene of a subsequent fight.

Law enforcement staffing and vigilance are always high on Florida beaches during spring break. Recently, Volusia County (Florida) Sheriff’s deputies arrested a 16-year-old male after he brandished a handgun in a crowd of spring breakers on New Smyrna Beach. Deputies flooded the scene when the teen, identified as Felixander Solis-Guzman, pointed a gun at another person. The boy fled from police toward the water, where he dropped a bag and his weapon into the ocean. Twenty bags of marijuana were recovered. Solis-Guzman also had seven active warrants a the time he was apprehended.

A 17-year-old was driving erratically, including doing “donuts” in Dallas. Police Officer Tyler Morris attempted to stop the vehicle. The driver, Jaheart Nickelberry, fired on the officer, wounding him in the hip. Nickelberry was found to be the suspect in several armed robberies, one of which occurred just three hours earlier. He was arrested on charges including aggravated assault, evading arrest or detention in a motor vehicle, two counts of aggravated robbery, unauthorized use of a vehicle, and tampering with evidence after fleeing, still armed, toward an apartment complex. Other occupants of the vehicle were arrested including a 15-year-old girl who also attempted to flee the scene.

Since 1970, the most frequent age range of school shooters is between 14 and 18.  The third most frequently occurring age of homicide offenders is the age group 9-19, representing more than ten percent of all murders. It is notable that these age groups also represent some of the most vulnerable to victimization of murder, assault, and rape. The Center for Disease Control shows homicide to be the fourth leading cause of death for ages 10-14, with suicide rating second. For ages 15-24, homicide is slightly higher than suicide as one of the top three causes of death. Rates of drug use have remained fairly stable since before the 2020 pandemic, but an average of 22 adolescents between 14 and 18 years old die from drug overdoses weekly.

Crime statistics have natural cycles of highs and lows, with criminologists theorizing various causes – family structure, government policies, and birth rates – so we may not need to be in a panic about juvenile crime, but neither can we be complacent.