HASTINGS, Mich. (WOOD) — Two people were arrested after what investigators are calling a multijurisdictional crime spree involving dozens of cars in Hastings and Allegan.
The Hastings Police Department says that in its city, about 35 vehicles were damaged at Hastings Manufacturing, Hastings Mutual Insurance and a residence. Police say the suspects shot out windows of vehicles and stole things from them Tuesday afternoon.
The insurance company’s lot serves about 300 employees. It is long and narrow, with the farthest point about a third of a mile away from the building entrance. The suspects focused on the part of the lot that was far from the building, police say.
Surveillance video shows the suspects’ car circling the lot a few times before parking, at which point the cars were broken into. The thieves were at the lot for about 10 minutes total and spent about half of that time going through cars, police say.
“Some of them (the windows) had spider windows but it wasn’t completely broken and the cars were not accessed, so it appears they were going through and just getting through windows as fast as they could,” Mike Puerner, the chief legal officer at Hastings Mutual Insurance, told News 8.
Because not all of the windows actually broke, police believe the suspects used a small-caliber or pellet gun.
“It kind of shows the disregard for property and even life because of the seriousness of this: You have people in broad daylight in a pretty populated work area with weapons,” Hastings Police Chief Jeff Pratt said.
He said he believed the locations hit were random.
He credited the surveillance video from the insurance company with leading to a quick arrest.
“We were able to get a very good description of the vehicle they were driving and of the suspects, and we got that information out to the area agencies and everything worked just perfect and nobody was injured,” Pratt said.
Eventually, a Michigan Department of Natural Resources conservation officer spotted the vehicle parked in the Barry State Game Area; several vehicles nearby also had smashed windows, the agency said.
The DNR said the officer turned on his flashing lights, at which point the suspect vehicle took off. The officer gave chase, with the pursuit reaching above 90 mph. The suspects’ vehicle eventually crashed into a swamp and they ran away. The DNR officer chased and caught them.
The suspects were taken into custody around 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, police say.
On Wednesday, a 17-year-old male from the Plainwell area and 19-year-old Emil Skokin of Kalamazoo were arraigned for charges related to the break-ins.
They both face 17 charges in Barry County court. In addition, the DNR charged the 17-year-old with four counts and Skokin with three counts. Both are facing charges that include felony firearm possession, breaking and entering vehicles and resisting arrest. Bond was set at $100,000 cash or surety for each suspect.
On Wednesday, a prosecutor said the 17-year-old had a loaded pistol when investigators arrested him Tuesday. Two loaded shotguns were also recovered in the car, according to the prosecutor.
The Barry County investigation is connected to 24 vehicle break-ins in downtown Allegan, authorities confirmed. The Allegan police chief said those vehicles were damaged around 1:30 a.m. Tuesday.
The suspects’ vehicle turned out to be a stolen car out of Kalamazoo Township. Due to how much stolen property investigators found in it, the Barry County Sheriff’s Office said the suspects likely committed previous break-ins.
-News 8 Lynsey Mukomel contributed to this report