Teen escapade brings charges

WESTFIELD – An illicit adventure one evening last September didn’t work out too well for five city teen-aged youths when they set out to play mini-golf, an investigation by city Police Officer Taylor Derrig has found.
Derrig was assigned to investigate an incident of trespass and theft at the closed Golf Acre recreational complex on Union Street and found that three teens – a 17-year-old boy, his 15-year-old girlfriend and a 16-year-old neighbor – had been caught trespassing by the management after the owner was alerted that five youths had been seen trying to break into one of the buildings on the complex.
The three identified teens had escaped consequences, as the owner subsequently told Derrig, “because she understood they were bored kids” but had been told firmly that they were forbidden to return to her business.
But, as Derrig later established, the three youths did return, about a week later, accompanied by two others, an 18-year-old Ford Avenue resident and another 16-year-old neighbor.
As Derrig discovered, the five youths had entered the closed complex and one of the boys had kicked in a door of one of the buildings so the teens could get golf clubs to play mini-golf on the closed course.
After the five teens played golf, the two older boys revealed their plan to steal a go-kart from the complex.
The 18-year-old suspect later told Derrig that he had gone to Golf Acres alone a few months earlier and had found a go-kart on the track. The boy said that he had been able to start it up and had driven it around the track until it began to get dark.
Derrig later learned from the business owner that she had parked a couple of go-karts on the track in order to increase the sale-ability of the business which was up for sale.
When the three younger teens learned of the plan, Derrig reports, a disagreement arose and they left the two older boys at the complex.
Fueling a black ‘Sidewinder’ go-kart (valued by the victim at $2,000) with gasoline one of the boys apparently had the foresight to bring with them, the boys continued with their plan.
Derrig was told by the elder boy that the 17-year-old suspect claimed to be the better ‘lookout’ so the older boy drove the stolen go-kart on Union Street until he reached ‘Salt City’ where his lookout joined him on the two-seat vehicle. They were able to operate it all the way back to their Orange Street neighborhood without incident.
They were not unnoticed – two witnesses reported seeing the go-kart on its journey – but patrol officers responding to the reports had not arrived in time to spot the boys.
Having successfully stolen the go-kart, the boys were apparently unable to resist the temptation to play with their new toy and their adventure began to unravel.
When Derrig spoke with an employee of Golf Acres the day after the theft he learned that she had been told by a relative that a go-kart which looked like one that belonged to the business had been seen operating near the Great River Bridges. Her relative had recognized the operator, an 18-year-old resident of the Orange Street neighborhood. The witness identified the operator for Deerig and pointed him toward one of the suspect’s social media accounts.
As Deerig was interviewing the suspect’s mother, the police dispatchers received multiple reports of a go-kart being driven in the Orange Street area. The suspect’s mother said that she had seen the 17-year-old suspect operating the go-kart in the area since the day before.
Shortly thereafter, the go-cart was discovered in the backyard of a Morris Street residence. The go-kart had been spray painted and an effort had been made to remove the rails around the side of the go-kart.
At about the same time, Deerig reports a witness sent him a photo showing the 18-year-old suspect operating the stolen go-kart moments earlier.
When confronted with the evidence, the older suspect admitted riding the go-kart in the neighborhood but initially said he didn’t know where it had come from. However, Deerig reports, when he next spoke with the boy “He took responsibility for stealing the go-kart and said that it had been stupid decision.”
Deerig subsequently spoke with the 17-year-old suspect whose account of the events was substantially the same. He also admitted that he and the older boys had spray painted the go-kart.
By the time the boys had finished talking to the officer, Deerig was able to confirm the identities of the other participants as the teens who had been told by the owner “to leave the property and never return” after they had been caught trespassing previously.
Deerig also interviewed the two 16-year-old suspects and both told him that they had only gone to to complex to play mini-golf and said that the 17-year-old teen had told them that the owner of the property had given them permission to be there. Both boys said that they had left when they learned what the older boys were planning to do.
All five of the suspects have been charged.
The two older boys were charged with larceny of property valued more than $1,200, breaking and entering in the nighttime with intent to commit a felony, trespassing and malicious destruction of property. The younger teens were all charged with trespassing and one of the boys was also charged with breaking and entering as it was alleged that it was he who had kicked in the door of a building to access the golf clubs needed to play mini-golf.
However, the consequences faced by the only legal adult in the group – 18-year-old, Jonathan Quinones Natal, of 14 Ford Ave. – may be very different than those faced by his juvenile accomplices.
As an adult, Natal was arraigned in Westfield District Court. His alleged accomplices will answer their charges in Holyoke Juvenile Court where decisions are not reported.

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