Seven juveniles who were injured in a fiery three-vehicle crash on Monday morning have been linked to a string of Ocala burglaries and Marion County thefts.
The crash took place in the 600 block of W State Road 40 near SW 60th Avenue shortly before 7:30 a.m. The juveniles were in a 1989 brown Ford pickup truck that had been reported stolen out of Marion County. Two Marion County sheriff’s deputies who were responding to the auto theft observed the truck and attempted to make a traffic stop. But the deputies didn’t pursue the vehicle after they saw five juveniles riding in the bed of the pickup.
The pickup’s driver lost control of the vehicle near the 6400 block of SR 40 and the truck slid across the grass median and collided with two other vehicles, a Dodge pickup truck and red Kia van. The violent collision led to multiple ejections of the juveniles from the stolen pickup, which ultimately caught fire and burned.
All nine people involved in the crash were transported to area hospitals. Two of the juveniles – the 14-year-old driver of the pickup and the 15-year-old front-seat passenger – remain in critical condition, while everyone else has been released from the hospital, including the drivers of the other two vehicles, the report says.
Upon impact, items such as ammunition, firearms, keys, credit cards, cash and clothing were thrown from the Ford pickup, as well as a key fob belonging to a stolen Dodge Durango that was recovered in Dunnellon with a blown tire. Through investigative leads and victim identification, the items were tied to approximately nine auto burglaries in the Fore Ranch neighborhood in Ocala, a report says.
A witness reported seeing the juveniles pulling on door handles in the neighborhood and then fleeing to a maroon Dodge Durango – the same vehicle that was recovered in Dunnellon. With the vehicle inoperable, the juveniles allegedly stole the brown Ford pickup truck from a residence in Dunnellon and then traveled east on SR 40, where a witness observed them and notified the sheriff’s office, the report says, adding that all of the vehicles that were burglarized were unsecured and the two stolen vehicles had the keys inside them.
The juveniles are from the Tampa area and range in age from 11 to 16. Ocala Police detectives are charging all of them with auto theft and nine counts of burglary and theft. Three of them have been interviewed by detectives and admitted to driving to Ocala in the Durango and committing burglaries in multiple neighborhoods while under the influence of marijuana, the report says.
Three of the juveniles have been arrested. Due to injuries or medical transport, the remaining four will have juvenile pick-up orders sought. The arrests were the result of a joint effort between the Ocala Police Department and the Marion County Sheriff’s Office.