There’s been a string of carjackings and armed robberies in and around Cleveland, Ohio for the past few weeks, with at least 30 different incidents reported. Now police believe they’ve figured out who’s responsible; at least ten juveniles, three of whom have been arrested and are facing formal charges.
The three were taken into custody on Tuesday afternoon after police spotted a stolen car that was taken in one of the many carjackings allegedly committed by the teenagers.
The teens also evaded police custody after supervisors called off officers from chasing the suspects on Saturday following several carjackings in the city’s Tremont neighborhood.
The three teens were charged Wednesday in Cuyahoga County Juvenile Court in connection to an armed carjacking at a school that happened about two hours before their arrest.
All three — ages 14, 16 and 17 — are charged with aggravated robbery and are being held in the Cuyahoga County Juvenile Detention Center.
Cleveland police are sifting through evidence in an attempt to connect the teens to several armed carjackings, including at least seven on Saturday, one that involved shooting a robbery victim, and at least one pistol-whipping. Most of the victims are women.
The pistol-whipping happened about 7 a.m. outside a home on West 129th Street and Cooley Avenue. A robber pulled a 33-year-old woman from her car and struck her in the face with the gun as she screamed for help.
The woman ran to the front door of her home and told her family that she needed help, according to police. The teen and two others sped away in a different car, but the woman later told police she believed the group wanted to steal her car, a report says.
The group then committed at least seven armed carjackings or attempted carjackings on Saturday, starting with a 1 a.m. carjacking of a 19-year-old woman at a BP gas station on Brookpark Road in Old Brooklyn, police reports say.
According to the Cleveland Plain-Dealer, city council member Kerry McCormack says that officers spotted the vehicle being used by the carjackers at least three times last Saturday, but were denied permission to pursue the carjackers each and every time they encountered the suspects.
I understand the argument that pursuing the suspects could put the public at risk, but it’s not like letting them go made the public any safer. In fact, police believe that the teens went on to commit several more carjackings over the next few days before three of them were finally taken into custody on Tuesday.
Of course none of the teens who were arrested were in legal possession of a firearm. In fact, none of them are old enough to legally own a gun to begin with. As for the victims, it’s not known whether any of them were concealed carry licensees or had firearms on them, but Cuyahoga County is one of many jurisdictions around the country where those applying for a concealed carry license have been facing excruciating wait times. Criminal defense attorney Eric Foster wrote an op-ed for the Plain-Dealer back in December describing what applicants are having to deal with and calling on the county sheriff to process applications in a timely manner in order for people to be able to legally defend themselves.
You go online to schedule an appointment with the Cuyahoga County Sheriff’s Office. You click on the link to see appointment availability. There’s no availability this month. OK. You click to see the next month. None. The next month? Zero. The next month? Nope. You try to go to the next month. You get a message that says you cannot schedule an appointment that far out.
You don’t know what to do. You call the Sheriff’s Office. They tell you that you can apply in any county that touches Cuyahoga. You check those websites and try to schedule an appointment. The earliest one you can schedule is six months away.
Six months away?! You need that license right now. You need to protect yourself right now. You’re scared to go out in public now. You were just violently carjacked. You need the license to help you prevent that from happening again.
You call the Sheriff’s Office again. You plead your case.
“Well maybe if someone cancels an appointment, I can let you know.”
You’re incredulous. “That’s it? That’s all you can do?”
“I’m sorry, that’s all I can do. There’s a lot of people who want these right now.”
You hang up in disgust. “I did everything I was supposed to,” you tell yourself. Why can’t I protect myself? The license won’t matter if I’m dead.
You decide to put your gun in your car anyways.
Two months later, you get pulled over for speeding. The officer asks for your license and registration. You open the glove compartment. The officer sees the gun. You get charged with a felony: improper handling of a firearm.
Now imagine that this tale is not fiction. Imagine that it is real. Because it is, for residents all over this county. In the last two months, I have represented three different clients charged with felony improper handling under similar circumstances.
Something’s gotta give here. Police are not allowed to pursue violent criminals, and legal gun owners aren’t getting their concealed carry licenses in a timely manner, leaving them unarmed or subject to criminal charges if they choose to carry for self-defense while they wait for their license to finally be approved. That’s a recipe for disaster, but it’s the status quo in Cleveland these days.