Columbia police said seven juveniles were apprehended early Thursday morning after they were seen attempting to enter unlocked vehicles in Waterloo and fled north.
Police said the charges include vehicle theft, burglary to vehicle, possession of a stolen vehicle, unlawful possession of a firearm, and unlawful possession of ammunition, with other possible charges pending.
At approximately 2:55 a.m., Waterloo police and the Monroe County Sheriff’s Department were alerted to several individuals attempting to break into vehicles on Victor Street in Waterloo.
Upon a deputy’s arrival, the suspects ran to two vehicles and fled northbound on Route 3 from Waterloo.
Deputies pursued a stolen 2017 Volkswagen Passat and a 2019 Jeep Cherokee. It was later discovered the Jeep Cherokee had been stolen from the 500 block of South Ferkel in Columbia.
Columbia police deployed spike strips at the intersection of Route 3 and Carl Street, which successfully “spiked” both stolen vehicles. The Jeep stopped near Route 3 and Wedgewood Drive, where the occupants fled on foot. The Volkswagen crashed into a field near D Road and Bluff Road, where those occupants also fled.
Columbia police set up a perimeter at both crash locations. With the assistance of the Columbia Fire Department, a drone was utilized to scan the area for the fleeing suspects. Another key element that aided in the apprehension of the suspects, police said, were phone calls from concerned citizens to the dispatch center.
Seven juveniles from St. Louis were eventually located and taken into custody within the next several hours. The juveniles were driven to the Columbia police station for questioning and processing and subsequently taken to a juvenile detention facility in Belleville.
The juveniles range in age from 10-17. A loaded .22 handgun was located on one of the juveniles and several 9mm bullets were found on another.
“The Columbia Police Department would like to sincerely thank our citizens who called our dispatch center with key information,” Columbia Police Chief Jason Donjon said. “The CPD would also like to thank the Monroe County Sheriff’s Department, Waterloo Police Department, Illinois State Police, Metro East Auto Theft Task Force, Caseyville Police Department, Dupo Police Department, Columbia EMS and the Columbia Volunteer Fire Department for assisting in the successful apprehension of the suspects. The Columbia Police Department continues to stress that citizens lock their vehicles and report any suspicious behavior they may witness immediately.”