A Rochester teenager was charged Tuesday in a Nov. 8 crime spree that included an armed carjacking and other thefts in Woodbury.
The 17-year-old boy was found and arrested in Eden Prairie a day later by Hennepin County Sheriff's Office investigators, who had been tracking him because of other suspected criminal activity. The debit card of a carjacking victim was found in his winter coat, the investigators reported. He faces counts of aggravated robbery, second-degree assault and theft of a motor vehicle in Washington County District Court.
The Star Tribune generally does not name juvenile defendants.
According to the criminal complaint: The teen and at least two others were riding in a stolen black BMW SUV and a gray Honda Pilot when they pulled up on either side of a driver sitting in her car at the Chick-fil-A, 6939 Valley Creek Rd. at 8:20 p.m. on Nov. 8. They pulled a gun on the driver and demanded her property, taking her purse, phone, keys and Taser.
Five minutes later, the same two vehicles pulled into the parking lot of Eagle Tobacco, 2230 Eagle Creek Lane. The person sitting in the front passenger seat of the Honda jumped out of the car, stepped into the driver's seat of a running 2016 Honda Accord and drove off. The Accord's owner told authorities he had left his vehicle running when he went into the tobacco shop; he thought the car couldn't be stolen since he had the key fob with him.
Twenty minutes later, the BMW and Honda Pilot were seen pulling into the parking lot of the Target store at Valley Creek Plaza. The teen and two companions entered the Target and attempted to buy Visa prepaid gift cards with the credit cards stolen minutes earlier. They walked out of Target and were driving away when they passed someone entering the parking lot in a 2020 Jaguar XF; the teen and his companions turned around and followed the Jaguar driver to her parking spot.
The Jaguar driver later told authorities that two people armed with handguns, one of them fitted with a laser sight, got into her car and demanded her property while pointing their guns at her. She screamed for help, but one of the gunmen put his hand over her mouth and told her she would be dead if she wasn't quiet. They took her wallet and phone and then ordered her out of the car before driving away in it.
The teen's GPS data showed that he was in the area at the time of the carjacking and other crimes. He also posted a Snapchat video that showed a Jaguar XF steering wheel from the driver's seat. Dried-flower petals could be seen on the car's dashboard in the video, and the stolen Jaguar's owner confirmed that her car had dried-flower petals on the dashboard.
The teen also was involved in a Nov. 9 armed robbery at a Target in St. Cloud; he's seen in surveillance video wearing the same shiny black coat, face mask and white Jordan tennis shoes he wore in the Woodbury incidents.
The teen was arrested at an Eden Prairie apartment complex. Investigators found a laser-equipped 9mm Smith & Wesson handgun in the same room where his coat was found. A warrant for his arrest had been issued Oct. 22 after he fled a court-ordered placement at Village Ranch group home in Rochester.
Washington County Attorney Pete Orput said he's filed a petition to try the teenager in adult court, a move he said he's willing to make for any juvenile who is a serious risk to public safety.
"Unfortunately, these robbery and motor vehicle theft cases are occurring too often in Washington County," said Orput in a statement. "Law enforcement and prosecutors in my office are coordinating to swiftly investigate and charge these cases."