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Crime and Young People - Editorial

We have seen this before where young people are enticed into a life of crime. Or that is the only lifestyle they have known. Or maybe it's for a cheap thrill.

We are not excusing any behavior or criminal activity and believe that criminal behavior should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law while protecting personal rights to a fair trial.

It is a shame that these young people were let down by a system of government services that should have helped them get on the right path. It is a shame that the system and individuals did not allow them to get out of a life a crime.

Now they will have to pay the consequences for their actions. Moreover, now we as a society will have to pay for their trial and possible incarceration when we need young people the most to improve our workforce and our society.

All of their school and juvenile records should be audited and determined if people were lazy or did not care somewhere in the system. These young men should be held responsible for their actions. Those who took no action when they were growing up should also be held accountable. School systems and government service providers who turned a blind eye to behavioral manifestations that lead to anti-social behavior need to be held responsible for not helping these young men learn lessons of consequences and redirection.

Until then, this cycle of criminality will continue, and we will always be playing catch up.

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Statement from DuPage County State's Attorney's Office Robert Berlin and Westmont Chief of Police Jim Gunther announced today that bond has been set for three of four individuals accused of Burglary at a Westmont BMW dealership. Angel Martin, 23 (d.o.b. 8/26/1998) of the 15500 block of Minerva Avenue, Dolton, Semaje Wheeler, 18 (d.o.b. 7/19/2003) of the 4400 block of West Adams Street, Chicago and Brian Garrett, 19 (d.o.b. 12/20/2002) of the 8500 block of South Exchange Avenue, Chicago, appeared in Bond Court this morning where Judge Leah Bendik set bond at $1 million with 10% to apply for Martin and $750,000 with 10% to apply for Wheeler and Garrett. All three men have been charged with two counts of Armed Violence (Class X Felony), one count of Burglary (Class 2 Felony) and one count of Possession of a Stolen Motor Vehicle (Class 2 Felony). A fourth individual, a juvenile, is currently in the hospital and will appear at a detention hearing upon release.

On December 31, 2021, at approximately 4:27 a.m., the Westmont Police Department received information of a burglary in progress at Laurel BWM located on Ogden Avenue. Two officers responded to the call and upon their arrival allegedly encountered two individuals, later identified as Martin and the juvenile, exiting the showroom and entering a white Acura with two occupants, later identified as Wheeler and Garrett.

Following an investigation into the matter, it is alleged that after arriving at the dealership, the juvenile and Martin, armed with a pry bar, attempted to enter the building on the east side but were unsuccessful. It is alleged that the two then joined Wheeler and Garrett in the Acura, drove to the west side of the building, exited the vehicle again and attempted to gain entry to the building with the pry bar.

It is further alleged that Martin eventually grabbed a landscaping rock and threw it through a pane of glass in the garage bay door. It is alleged that the juvenile and Martin then entered the building through the broken window. It is alleged once alerted to the arrival of the police, the two suspects exited the building and entered the Acura to flee. Officers however, had blocked the driveway with their squad car. Officers exited their squad car and as the Acura attempted to flee, drew their weapons and ordered the offenders to stop and exit the car.

It is alleged that the defendants attempted to flee the scene by driving directly at one of the uniformed officers, at which time the officer discharged his duty weapon striking the driver in the chest and grazing Martin, who was seated in the front passenger seat. As the vehicle allegedly approached, the officer ran out of the path of the Acura and used his free hand to push off the vehicle to avoid injury. It is alleged that the vehicle then fled east on Ogden Avenue to northbound IL-83. Near 22nd Street in Oak Brook, it is alleged that the vehicle crashed into a ditch and the four occupants fled on foot.

All four suspects were apprehended a short time later with assistance from various law enforcement agencies that had responded to assist. The juvenile, who was the alleged driver of the vehicle, was taken to a hospital for medical attention and remains there. It was later determined that the Acura had been stolen on December 21, 2021 out of Lake County.

When processing the scene, officers located three firearms inside the Acura; a Glock 23 40 caliber with an extended magazine, a Poly 80 gun with a round in the chamber and a Glock 17 9mm with a fully loaded 24 round magazine. Officers also found a Glock 19 with an extended magazine just outside Acura near the driver’s side door. Three of the firearms appeared to have switches which could render the firearms fully automatic. Inside the vehicle, officers also found a 50-round drum magazine that was nearly full, twenty-eight key fobs for various automobiles and two pry bars. “It appears that as we enter a new year, the epidemic of car thefts shows no signs of slowing down,” Berlin said. “I caution any would-be car thieves that in DuPage County, this type of behavior will most certainly not be tolerated and if you commit such a crime here you will be quickly apprehended, charged and face an aggressive prosecution, regardless of age.

I commend the Westmont Police Department and the DuPage County MERIT Public Integrity Task Force and Forensic Investigation Unit for their quick response and apprehension of the suspects in this case. I also thank Assistant State’s Attorney Diane Michalak for her efforts in securing charges against these defendants.”

“No officer wants to be put in the situation where they are forced to fire their service weapon in performance of their duty,” Gunther said.

“Unfortunately, that is what happened in this case. I thank our responding officers involved in this matter for their professionalism and we are all very thankful that they were unharmed. I thank the Oak Brook, Oak Brook Terrace, Elmhurst and Villa Park Police Departments for their assistance which allowed us to bring the suspects into custody in very short order. I also thank State’s Attorney Berlin and his office for their legal guidance throughout this investigation.”

The cases against all three defendants are assigned to Judge Michael Reidy. Their next court appearance is scheduled for January 24, 2022, for arraignment.

Each defendant faces a possible sentence of between fifteen to thirty years in the Illinois Department of Corrections if found guilty of the Class X Armed Violence charge.

An investigation into the officer’s discharge of his firearm is currently underway by the DuPage County MERIT Public Integrity Task Force and Forensic Investigation Unit.

Members of the public are reminded that this complaint contains only charges and is not proof of the defendants’ guilt. The defendants are presumed innocent and are entitled to a fair trial in which it is the government’s burden to prove their guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. ###

Semaje Wheeler, 18 (d.o.b. 7/19/2003) of the 4400 block of West Adams Street, Chicago

Bond set at $750,000 with 10% cash for release.

Charged with two counts of Armed Violence (Class X Felony), one count of Burglary (Class 2 Felony) and one count of Possession of a Stolen Motor Vehicle (Class 2 Felony).

Angel Martin, 23 (d.o.b. 8/26/1998) of the 15500 block of Minerva Avenue, Dolton

Bond is set at $1 million with 10% cash for release.

Charged with two counts of Armed Violence (Class X Felony), one count of Burglary (Class 2 Felony) and one count of Possession of a Stolen Motor Vehicle (Class 2 Felony).

Brian Garrett, 19 (d.o.b. 12/20/2002) of the 8500 block of South Exchange Avenue, Chicago.

Bond set at $750,000 with 10% cash for release.

Charged with two counts of Armed Violence (Class X Felony), one count of Burglary (Class 2 Felony) and one count of Possession of a Stolen Motor Vehicle (Class 2 Felony).



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