Little is left of a stolen Ford Explorer involved in an early morning crash Aug. 6 that left three teens dead and one injured.
PALM HARBOR – Three teens died and another was injured when a stolen vehicle they were traveling in crashed at the intersection of U.S. 19 and Tampa Road about 4 a.m. Aug. 6.
Two teens in a second stolen vehicle were taken into custody.
Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri talked about the epidemic of auto thefts by youth that continues in the county during a press conference Sunday morning near the scene of the crash. He said all the teens involved in the incident have an “extensive criminal history.”
Gualtieri went over the circumstances that led up to the fatal crash. About 1 a.m., deputies spotted a 2015 black Ford Explorer at State Road 580 and Belcher Road in Dunedin that had been stolen from a car lot in Clearwater on Aug. 3. Deputies did not pursue.
About 4 a.m., deputies spotted the Explorer again along with a blue 2008 Chrysler Sebring that also had been stolen from the car lot in Clearwater on Aug. 3. The vehicles were on East Lake Road north of Tampa Road, traveling in tandem.
The two vehicles sped away from deputies and entered the East Lake Woodlands residential area. Deputies locked down a perimeter and called for help from the flight unit, but were unable to locate the vehicles.
A deputy traveling westbound on Tampa Road then found both vehicles traveling west. The vehicles were traveling in tandem and playing a game of “cat and mouse,” according to Gualtieri, while accelerating and decelerating.
When a deputy attempted to stop the Ford Explorer on Tampa Road and Lake St. George Drive, the Explorer sped away at speeds exceeding 100 miles per hour. The deputy made a U-turn as he noticed the Sebring had decelerated behind him.
The deputy was traveling eastbound on Tampa Road in the opposite direction of the Ford Explorer when it entered the intersection of Tampa Road and collided with a 1999 Toyota Camry driven Ricky Melendez, 29, who was traveling northbound on U.S. 19.
The Explorer went airborne and struck multiple parked vehicles in a car lot on the northwest corner of the intersection and continued to roll, flip and strike numerous fixed objects while still moving westbound on Tampa Road before coming to rest.
Four teenagers were inside - Keontae Brown, 16; Jimmie Goshey, 14; Dejarae Thomas, 16; and Keondrae Brown, 14. All of the teens died except Keondrae Brown, who was taken to Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg. Melendez suffered minor injuries.
Gualtieri said when the crash occurred, the Sebring continued south on U.S. 19. Deputies found it abandoned near the intersection of U.S. 19 and Sunset Point Road in Clearwater. A short time later, the two occupants, Deyon Kaigler, 16, and Kamal Campbell, 18, who had fled on foot, were taken into custody with the assistance of the K-9 Unit. They were charged with one count of grand theft auto and one count of resisting arrest without violence.
During the press conference, Gualtieri said the auto theft epidemic was a deadly game and needed to stop. He said the teens involved in this incident were prolific offenders and were already being monitored by the Habitual Offender Monitoring Enforcement Unit.
Detectives are seeking assistance in identifying other vehicle or home burglaries that may have occurred in north Clearwater, East Lake, Safety Harbor and Palm Harbor that may be related to the teens. Anyone with information or anyone who may have been a victim is asked to call the sheriff’s office at 727-582-6200.