• Last modified 810 days ago (April 28, 2022)


Kids, cars keep cops hopping

Staff writers

The radio earworm “1-877-KARS-4-KIDS” may have been echoing through the heads of law enforcement officers this weekend.

Around 6 p.m. Saturday, dispatchers received a call from a woman who apparently had been enjoying the warm evening by watching a group of elementary school children playing at a park in Lehigh.

One boy seemed to have caught her eye. She recalled overhearing a remark from another observer that the boy was a third grader.

Next time she saw him, he was on North St. in a black 2014 Ford Flex sport utility vehicle — not sitting or riding in the SUV, but driving it.

“I have a report of a driving complaint in Lehigh,” a dispatcher radioed deputies. “Last seen on North St. R.P. is advising that it’s an extremely young child driving, possibly third grade or older.”

The dispatcher included the year, make, and model of the SUV and its license plate, which checked out as being registered to a Newton resident, whose last name she provided.

“R.P.,” the dispatcher said, using police lingo for “reporting party,” “advised that she had seen this child at the park earlier, playing with similar elementary school age children, and heard a remark from someone else who was also witness that that child was in third grade. She doesn’t understand how he’s driving.”

Deputy Joshua Meliza radioed back: “Did she say whether there were any adults in the vehicle?”

“That’s a negative,” the dispatcher responded.

Meliza headed to Lehigh from Hillsboro, but not before Hillsboro officer John Huebert, overhearing the dispatch, radioed that the name sounded familiar and that Hillsboro police had dealt with a similar case involving a specific address in Lehigh, which he relayed to Meliza.

Deputy Kaylan Miles, in Marion at the time, radioed that he would be joining Meliza in Lehigh.

En route, Meliza asked Huebert whether he might be available to “come out to the highway for a minute.”

“There’s a car gonna be there, just about had a head-on with me, but I’m worrying about this Lehigh call instead,” Meliza said. “I figure they need yelled at.”

A minute later, Meliza reported sighting the SUV at the address Huebert had supplied.

Six minutes after that, Meliza checked a driver’s license listed to a Newton resident who wasn’t wanted but had received multiple tickets in the past.

Miles then joined Meliza, and eight minutes later, Meliza told dispatchers: “Driver and mother of the child have both been warned.”

Sheriff Jeff Soyez said no citations were issued because the reporting party did not want to be identifiable.

The mother, who apparently was in the car at the time, told Meliza she “was trying to teach her kid to drive,” Soyez said.

The incident Huebert mentioned also involved the mother allowing the boy to drive, Soyez said.

It wasn’t the last odd call of the weekend involving kids and cars.

Shortly before 5 p.m. Sunday, dispatchers told deputy Derek Fetrow that a rural Goessel mother reported that her teenage daughter was refusing to return the mother’s vehicle and cell phone.

“Mom’s wanting police assistance to get her phone and vehicle back,” the dispatcher said.

Soyez said the girl had not left her mother’s property with her car and phone, but the two were disagreeing because the daughter wanted to take the car and phone and move to her father’s house in Goessel.

The mother had said she couldn’t take them because she had paid for them.

Fetrow went to the mother’s residence and checked the registration on a blue 2000 Volkswagen New Beetle belonging to the mother. He then conferred with the mother, who said she wanted law enforcement to stand by.

Fetrow’s shift ended, but Miles arrived at the mother’s house around 6:40 p.m. He completed the assignment an hour later.

“It was basically a civil standby,” Soyez said.

Marion police also had incidents involving young people and cars.

Around 11:30 p.m. Saturday, police chief Clinton Jeffrey was called to a parking lot at Casey’s General Store, where an anonymous caller said a black SUV with a younger occupant was blaring loud music.

Jeffrey spoke with the occupant of the SUV and got him to agree to turn down his music. An hour and a half later, however, he received another noise complaint from not far away, in the 300 block of N. Cedar St.

Last modified April 28, 2022