Monday, December 9, 2013
By BEN McCANNA Morning Sentinel
WINSLOW - A police officer investigating a series of explosions of homemade bombs uncovered a larger crime spree involving 13 males in 14 criminal incidents.
Officer Ron McGowen logged more than 100 hours unraveling the case, which included a series of burglaries, thefts, criminal mischief and vehicle burglaries during which $3,000 worth of items were stolen, he said.
Summonses have been served or are pending on nine juveniles and four adults, and $1,800 worth of items have been recovered.
The incidents spanned several weeks from June 12 to July 8.
On July 5, at the end of a three-day series of explosions from four homemade bombs, McGowen received an anonymous tip and interviewed three potential suspects. There were no injuries or damages from those fires.
Soon the case grew in scope and included many other incidents and people, mostly teenagers. The case "just went nuts," McGowen said.
Police are withholding the names of many of the suspects because they're juveniles.
Of the four adults, McGowen would name only one -- Donald Stone, 19, of Winslow, who was cited Thursday on four counts of reckless conduct for allegedly making and detonating the bombs.
The names of the remaining three adults are being withheld until summonses are served to them, McGowen said.
The crimes began June 12 when three juveniles broke into a snack shack at the Winslow High School softball field and stole "armloads" of drinks and snacks.
They continued on 10 other nights during which different combinations of suspects broke into another school-owned snack shack, knocked air conditioners out of windows at several homes, threw a rock through a picture window, smashed two car windows, lit four homemade bombs on three consecutive nights and burglarized 10 vehicles, McGowen said.
Stone was charged with criminal mischief for the second snack shack incident but wasn't involved in anything else.
The vehicle burglaries are known as "car shopping," McGowen said. " 'Car shopping' is going around and looking in cars for things to take," he said.
For the most part, so-called car shoppers target unlocked vehicles, but twice the suspects broke into locked cars. McGowen said the stolen items include a laptop computer, six GPS receivers, an iPod and much more -- a total of about 50 items valued at nearly $3,000.
Twenty-three items have been recovered so far, McGowen said.
"It was a very time-consuming and tedious investigation," he said, "but I'm very happy to have located as many items as we did, and I look forward to returning them to their owners."
McGowen said he believes the crimes were the result of two factors -- one bad apple and an empty schedule.
First, a young man with a criminal past -- whom McGowen wouldn't identify -- probably convinced the others to get involved. Second, the suspects had nothing else to do, he said.
"They're all good kids," said McGowen, who also is a student resource officer for Winslow schools. "They're involved in sports and they get good grades.
"It all started when school let out. I wholeheartedly believe that when kids have things to do -- activities, school, sports -- they're less likely to fall into this sort of thing."
Morning Sentinel Staff Writer Ben McCanna can be contacted at 861-9239 or at: