Auto theft ring members chased, arrested

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 17, 2000

ERIK SANZENBACH / L’Observateur / May 17, 2000

LAPLACE – A high-speed car chase that started in LaPlace and ended in Ascension Parish has led to the arrest of a juvenile and a 17-year-old male, both from New Orleans.

The St. John Parish Sheriff’s Office said the two suspects are being chargedwith auto theft and may be part of an auto theft ring that is probably operating a chop shop in New Orleans.

About 2 a.m. Friday K-9 officer Keith Brooks was on patrol when he noticed aDodge Intrepid parked in front of First Baptist Church on Dominican Drive with two individuals inside the car.

Brooks became suspicious because since the end of April, seven Dodge vehicles have been stolen from the LaPlace area. According to policerecords, three Dodge Intrepids and four Durango SUVs have disappeared from the streets of LaPlace.

As Brooks approached the car the two men crouched down, then started the car and fled.

Brooks followed the Dodge, and when it headed west on Airline Highway the suspects sped up, ran red lights and began driving recklessly.

Brooks called for back up, and by the time the suspects crossed the St.

James Parish line there were three St. John police units in pursuit. Deputiesfrom the St. James Sheriff Office, Gramercy Police Department and Troop Aof the Louisiana State Police joined in the chase. The suspects were clockedat 120 mph at one point.

As the Dodge approached Ascension Parish where Airline Highway intersects Interstate 10, the suspects’ car hit the curb. The driver lost control andstopped, and the two teens jumped out of the car and began to run, but they were caught by the police.

The juvenile, whose name was not given, and Carl Nelson, 17, 1032 Independence St., New Orleans, were both charged with grand theft auto,possession of stolen property, reckless operation of a motor vehicle and flight from a police officer in a motor vehicle. Nelson has an extensive recordinvolving stolen vehicles, according to Capt. Mike Tregre of the St. JohnParish Sheriff’s Office.

“We found tools in the stolen vehicle,” said Tregre, “and they had defeated the door lock and ignition lock on the car.”Tregre said the sheriff’s office is working closely with the New Orleans Police Department and other parishes on the case.

“These guys covered a lot of miles and territory,” said Tregre. ” Who knowshow big this thing is. It is a chop shop operation probably. A lot of thevehicles have not been recovered.”Authorities believe the two suspects were working with a group of other thieves who were dropped off in LaPlace, stole the cars and met at some pre-determined point where they all head back to New Orleans.

“They hit us for three cars in one night,” reported Tregre.

The juvenile suspect was released to the custody of his mother, and Nelson remains in the St. John Detention Center under $100,000 bond.

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