Police say a group of teenagers who got their kicks from shooting up car windows and businesses with a high-powered BB gun together face more than 400 criminal charges following their arrests early Friday.
The arrests of the six teens, including three girls, ends a string of air-gun vandalism that began Nov. 1 and has totaled at least 75 reported incidents in Hall County involving more than 70 cars, seven businesses and a handful of unoccupied homes. The damage tallied by Gainesville Police and Hall County Sheriff's Office so far stands at $47,150.
"We're glad to get these folks off the street," said Gainesville Police Chief Frank Hooper. His agency worked with Flowery Branch police and the Hall County Sheriff's Office to break the case.
The break came by way of a tip from a "concerned citizen" who overheard some of the teens talking shortly after midnight, said Flowery Branch Police Chief Gerald Lanich.
"He called one of our officers and relayed the information to him," Lanich said. At about 12:30 a.m. Friday, a Flowery Branch officer, joined by officials with the Gainesville-Hall County Gang Task Force and Hall County Multi-Agency Narcotics Squad, made a traffic stop on McEver Road near Jim Crowe Road. There they stopped a GMC Yukon driven by 18-year-old Adam Rolland Wilde of Oakwood, who is thought by officials to be one of the main instigators of the vandalism. A BB pistol and several C02 cartridges were seized from the car, police said.
Later, authorities stopped a red Ford F-150 truck driven by 17-year-old Joshua Morgan Smith. Officers had already been on the lookout for a truck with the same description in connection with the vandalism.
In addition to Wilde and Smith, four others were charged in the case. They were identified by Gainesville police as Robby Kraig Simmemon, 18, Jessica Eleanore Hedger, 19, Laura Danyelle Boggus, 17, and a 16-year-old female suspect whose name was not released by police because of her age. All are from Gainesville.
Gainesville police would not release photographs of the teens Friday, saying they wanted to show a photo lineup to a potential witness.
"Hopefully the community can relax a little bit now, because we have six people in custody we believe were responsible for the majority of these incidents," Gainesville Police Lt. Brian Kelly said.
Jonathan McDougald, one of more than a dozen people who had their rear car windows shot out at the Chicopee Crossing Town homes early Tuesday, called the news of the arrests "awesome."
"I'm happy," said the 25-year-old McDougald, who paid some $500 to repair two car windows. "Hopefully they can be held responsible for it and pay some kind of restitution. Maybe I'll see it before I die."
McDougald may have to get in line. Each suspect faces 48 counts of misdemeanor criminal trespass and 23 counts of felony criminal damage to property. In all, Gainesville police and Hall sheriff's officials filed 426 criminal counts in the case.
Kelly said the crimes were not gang-related. "Apparently it was strictly vandalism, with no specific target or retaliation," Kelly said. "They were just out joy riding and damaging property in the process."
Said McDougald, "They obviously didn't think about the consequences, but I bet they do now."