Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Students' So-Called Prank Results In Police Officer's Death

Five high school idiots seniors that attend St. Charles East High School, which is located near Chicago, Illinois, thought that it would be a good idea to continue a graduation "tradition" by stealing a golf cart and running it into a nearby retention pond:

On Saturday, the students' plan went awry from the start, when they spotted a custodian as they "forcibly opened" the door to the school's sports center about 1:20 a.m. Saturday, police said. The custodian called police and the students fled, but two of them returned later to retrieve bolt-cutters they left behind, police said.

While most officers had left by that time, Sgt. Daniel P. Figgins, 53, had stayed behind. He began chasing one of the teens when he collapsed apparently from a heart attack, police said. Police found him unresponsive in a field near the school.

The students were released from the Kane County Jail after posting bail. Three of the teens, released on $20,000 bond, are: Adam Crombleholme, 18, of the 1200 block of South 7th Avenue, St. Charles; Brian Johnson, 18, of the 400 block of Division Street, St. Charles; and Jared Johnson, 18, of the 6N400 block of Hub Road, Wayne.

Travis Ingersoll, 17, of the 1000 block of Hunt Club Court in St. Charles, was released on $30,000 bond. John Swider, 18, of the 2700 block of Royal St. Georges Court in St. Charles, faces an additional misdemeanor charge of obstructing a police officer. He was released on $50,000 bond.

"This was some sort of senior prank. ... It was more of a goof than anything," said attorney Justin Sather, who is representing two of the students. "It was stupid high school stuff that went horribly wrong."

According to police, Ingersoll and Swider had the higher bails because they were the ones that returned to the school for the bolt-cutters. The students will not face charges related to the officers death because there was no "physical contact" between the officer and the teens.

St. Charles East seniors have previously stolen golf carts used by school security, officials said. A newspaper police blotter from 2002 reported that a golf cart had been pushed into the school pond.

"It seems to be some tradition that seniors do, something they deem as being funny and call it a prank," St. Charles Police Cmdr. Dave Janish said. "There are a lot of pranks that go on, and unfortunately some of them cross over into the criminal world and we have to get involved."

Hernandez said the school principal sent a letter to students' homes last week stating that end-of-the-year pranks will not be tolerated and could result in being banned from the graduation ceremony.

The students should have heeded their principal's warning. The Tribune article didn't indicate whether or not Principal Robert H. Miller will indeed ban these alleged delinquents from graduation activities. We hope that he carries out his implied threat, as this "prank" has resulted in a tragic loss for the community:

Black bunting hung above the entrance to the St. Charles Police Department on Sunday and police officers wore black funeral ribbon around their badges.

St. Charles Police Chief James Lamkin said nobody could remember another officer dying in the line of duty.

Figgins stood out for his work at festivals and parades, acting as a liaison between the police and the community, St. Charles Mayor Sue Klinkhamer said.

"He could really talk to anybody and calm them down and most of the time have them laughing," she said. "I'll miss him because he used to come over to City Hall a lot. He was one of the few who would actually make it a point to say 'Hi' and tell me how happy he was working for the City of St. Charles."

Officer Figgins of Elgin is survived by his wife of 34 years, Linda; his father, Paul; two daughters, Kristin Dierking and Hillary Jarvis; four brothers, Ted, Ron, Doug and Craig; and a sister, Anitalynn Katz.

We hope that all the students involved in this senseless tragedy have learned some sort of lesson about life's choices and their consequences.

Update:(PM) Commenter AC reports that the newspaper has published a correction that states that the principal's letter advising against pranks had been written, but not yet sent to students. Please refer to the above link.
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