COLUMBUS, Ohio — Last year, law enforcement in the Columbus area set out to end the increased vehicle thefts in the area involving juvenile suspects.
Columbus police said four different groups of juveniles dubbed the "Game Over" kids, some younger than teenagers, were responsible for a majority of the car thefts. Those stolen vehicles were often used by the juveniles to commit other crimes.
Today, the issue remains and some of the teens who were arrested in connection to stolen vehicles in the last year were released and are accused of committing the same or similar crimes again.
Who are the Game Over kids?
Editor's Note: 10TV does not typically name juveniles or show their faces. This article, however, does identify some juveniles due to the repeated violent crimes they've been charged with.
“These kids were committing violent crimes. They were picking on vulnerable parts of our society,” said Columbus Police Commander Duane Mabry.
In October of 2021, police said Tyrez Turner, who was 15 at the time, streamed video live on Facebook of another juvenile and himself fleeing from Obetz police in a stolen car. Speeds reached more than 100 mph.
Franklin County Chief Deputy Jim Gilbert was driving in the area at the time. He heard the chase and pulled off the road in an unmarked vehicle and threw spike strips to try and stop the teens.
Gilbert hoped since Turner recorded his own crime spree, it would land Turner behind bars.
“That didn't matter at all. That's disturbing to me. I don't understand how you don't watch parts of this video and become as shocked as you should be, knowing that lives were at risk, and they have no regard for anyone's safety,” Gilbert said.
Turner has been charged 31 times for gun and car theft offenses between September 2017 and April 2022.
In March of this year, Hilliard police say Turner was involved in an accident with a stolen car and a school bus.
Through public records requests, CrimeTracker 10 learned the prosecutor in the case wrote in an email to detectives that because Turner was already on supervision for more than five felony cases, he asked the magistrate to commit Turner to the Department of Youth Services prison.
In the email, the prosecutor wrote, "the magistrate would not consider my request, and instead placed him on new terms of probation."
In April, Columbus police arrested Turner after they said he struck a police officer in a stolen car.
"It just shows these kids have no regard for a uniformed police officer, then they have no regard for you or I,” Mabry said.
Mabry said Turner is considered a Game Over kid. One of about 40 police tracked for violently stealing cars, mostly for joy rides. Through public records requests, CrimeTracker 10 obtained a list of the four groups of juveniles police tracked as a part of their operation.
According to Columbus police, from the beginning of the year through the end of April, there were nearly 3,000 cars reported stolen in the city of Columbus. Many of them were stolen along the Morse Road corridor, and Mabry said a good portion of those thefts were by juveniles.
“It is astonishing the amount of crime and how brazen they are, how much they brag about it. This is their club,” Mabry said.
According to Columbus police, at least one of the Game Over kids became a homicide victim.
Chaz Fleming, 18, was shot and killed inside a stolen car in March. Mabry said at least three other Game Over kids were in the car at the time. All were juveniles who had been previously arrested for stealing cars and later released.
“They are bragging about it. It's a slap in the face of what we are trying to do. We have kids who are cutting off their ankle monitors. It's a matter of a badge of honor to get one. They like to brag to each other about it, they like to brag to us about it,” Mabry said.
Mabry said it's frustrating for officers to arrest the same juveniles multiple times, sometimes within the same week.
One juvenile, Mabry explained, bragged to police about how many cars he's stolen, claiming to lift 7-10 a week.
Mabry said officers will continue to make the arrests.
“What happens once we arrest them, that is not on us. That is on the court. We are going to keep doing our job. We are going to continue to put these issues in front of the court to say these kids are up to no good,” Mabry said.
How are the juveniles able to re-offend?
CrimeTracker 10’s Lacey Crisp asked Juvenile Court Administrative Judge George Leach how the juveniles can continuously be arrested and charged only to be put back out on the streets.
Leach is familiar with the Game Over kids. He was a defense attorney before he took the bench less than two years ago. He admits the carjacking videos are disturbing.
“It's almost hard to believe it's real. I'm living it. It's just the level is almost hard to conceive that it's a juvenile. I know they don't think like us, and they don't think of consequences as well as they should. These are drastic measures some of them are taking,” Leach said.
Leach explained throughout the COVID-19 pandemic the court did not incarcerate as many juveniles as they typically would, but they are re-evaluating the method by which they determine when to hold juveniles.
Leach contends most juveniles who come before the court do not re-offend. Of the juveniles that are put on probation, the judge said about 77% are likely to re-offend.
What can be done?
When asked how he makes sure the 77% don’t re-offend, Leach said, “I've released a few kids since I have been here that were high-level felony. I say to them, 'I see where some kids see this as a joke', and I say 'it's not a joke.' I want them to call me the minute they do something wrong.”
Leach says the juvenile judges are working with the Columbus Division of Police and the Franklin County Prosecutor’s Office to find a strategy to keep the juveniles from re-offending and to protect the public.
“The solution is to figure out ways to connect, as you said earlier. 'How do you connect with these kids?' We have to connect. The solution gets back to putting services in place to connect. We have to go back to school mentorship programs. We have to get these juveniles in contact with people who will help them see through it,” Leach said.
Mabry said the community is stepping in to help the criminal justice system stop the violent juveniles.
“A lot of these crimes we are solving, we are getting the help of family members, we are getting help from members of the community that these kids are impacting,” Mabry said.