Three teens — including a 13 year old — were charged with first-degree murder Thursday after another teenager died when the car they were riding in crashed into a tree during a police chase in Homestead.
Police said a group of seven teens ranging in age from 13 to 17 were in a stolen car and were responsible for at least one armed robbery. They then tried to elude arrest.
“Here you have several young lives destroyed because of a series of bad decisions,” said Fernando Morales, a spokesman for Homestead police.
Late Thursday, police released arrest reports with the names of the suspects redacted, saying the names could not be released because of their age.
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The department said officers were chasing a group of teens Wednesday who had just committed at least one armed robbery when the car they were riding in crashed into a tree in Cali Greens in the 1500 block of Palm Drive.
Jeremiah Hightower, 14, was airlifted to the hospital and later died. Another teen suffered serious injuries and was also airlifted, according to the report. When Hightower died, the charges against three of the teens, including the driver, were increased to first-degree murder. Police said they found a weapon one of the teens tossed from the car during the chase.
Some of the teens involved “weren’t even old enough to have licenses,” Morales said.
“The law states that if there is a death involved during the commission of the crime where there are multiple defendants, the other defendants can be charged for that death,” Morales said.
A few of the teens took off running and were soon found hiding in an unlocked car, according to the report.
According to his police report, the driver was a 17-year-old and now faces charges including murder, vehicular homicide, aggravated fleeing involving a death and not having a driver’s license.
Morales said the car they were in was stolen in Aventura and that Homestead police were working with Aventura to see if any similar crimes were committed in that city.
State statute holds that anyone charged with first-degree murder would be tried as an adult. Homestead police, however, said Thursday it is department policy to charge the offenders as juveniles and therefore could not release names.
Morales said he hopes the case is a reminder to others that committing a crime comes with a risk.
“Bottom line, it’s just not worth it,” he said.