CLEARWATER, Fla — Pinellas County deputies arrested a 16-year-old boy after he allegedly stole his family's SUV and crashed it into a Clearwater home on Thursday night.
Mark and Dawn Smith were asleep when the white Kia SUV smashed into the side of their home and their garage on Eastfield Drive at 11:35 p.m.
“I heard a boom then came out of the door to find a vehicle parked dead center of my garage- smoke, headlights on, vehicle still running," Smith said pointing at the scattered debris littered across his garage. “I was angry. I was in total shock.”
Smith says he was even more shocked when the teens, including the 16-year-old driver and a 13-year-old passenger, ran away. He dashed after them but lost track of them. He says the boys returned a short time later to retrieve their backpacks and cell phones from the Kia.
“You’re going to be held accountable for what you did,” Smith told them.
The Sheriff's Office used a helicopter and K-9 team to track the teens. Deputies discovered the 16-year-old driver was still on probation from another grand theft auto charge.
“The kid actually sat on the back of my wife’s car and ate chips and drank pop like nothing even happened, no remorse,” Smith exclaimed. “Now it’s like we’re starting all over again over some kids' senseless joyride.”
Teens in Pinellas County, on average, crash a stolen car every 4 days. The crime is decreasing. Yet, Dewey Caruthers, who has studied teen auto theft for years, says it's putting innocent lives in danger.
“This is a joyriding epidemic and it’s well beyond what parents alone can handle. It's beyond what law enforcement can handle. We, as a community, need to come together to tackle this issue," Caruthers said.
The 16-year-old who hit Smith's house was even enrolled in a program called HOME (Habitual Offenders Monitoring Enforcement), which is meant to curb the dangerous behavior in teens.
“This is further proof that the status quo is not working,” Caruthers elaborated.
*Authorities say the 16-year-old is on felony probation.*
The driver will be taken to the Pinellas Juvenile Assessment Center after he is released from the hospital.
Deputies charged Wagner with Grand Theft Auto, Leaving the Scene of a Crash with Injury, Violation of Probation and three counts of Leaving the Scene of a Crash with Property Damage The passenger was not charged.
*Deputies originally told us Wagner cut-off his GPS ankle monitor several hours before the crash. However, Pinellas County Sheriff's Office now says his GPS ankle monitor was removed at about 5 p.m. on March 7 after he completed his graduating sanction period of 30 days set by the court.
Note: ABC Action News does not normally name juvenile suspects unless they are charged as an adult or if a law enforcement agency believes the public is endangered by them.