Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Teens apologize for cop-car arsons

Ketchum mayor, council offer advice

Express Staff Writer

Teenagers Parker Morris and Karel Kaiser apologized publicly at a Ketchum City Council meeting on Monday for lighting two police vehicles on fire in Hailey in December 2010.

A third boy who pleaded guilty to the crimes, Christopher Carnes, will apologize to the Blaine County Commission in the near future, said Ketchum Police Chief Steve Harkins, whose patrol car was one of the targeted vehicles.

The boys, now all 17, were 16 when the crimes occurred. All three were charged with felony arson when arrested in November 2011, nearly a year after the crimes were committed. They all pleaded guilty in plea agreements in 2012.

Blaine County Juvenile Court Judge Mark Ingram gave Kaiser and Carnes 21-day detention sentences and gave Morris, who has prior misdemeanor convictions, 45 days detention. The judge further ordered each boy to perform 100 hours of community service, to pay restitution of $589, to maintain a B average in school and to make a public apology.

"It scared my wife and daughter particularly because we didn't know who had done it for almost a year," Harkins said at the meeting. "It could have been a drug cartel with a vendetta against the police. Thank goodness, it was just three kids."

Mayor Randy Hall expressed sentiments that the incident was not acceptable and warranted being taken very seriously.

"This is crazy," Hall said. "You guys crossed the line. I take this stuff pretty seriously. I've had my life threatened twice. What was going on in your minds when you took this huge step?"

Morris was the first to speak. The council chamber was somber and silent as Morris approached the podium.

"Obviously, we were in the wrong," Morris said. "We'd had a bunch of incidents with the police and we felt we were being treated unfairly. We started just by making a bunch of fliers that said 'Teens against police harassment.' We wanted to create a small organization to talk to the police and tell them our stories peacefully.

"Some kids in our school got in trouble for the fliers. Then we felt stuck in a hard place. We were younger than we are now."

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The boys then decided a more aggressive course of action was in order. On Dec. 27, 2010, they set Blaine County Sheriff's Office Deputy Daniel Turner's vehicle on fire using petroleum, and the next night they threw two Molotov cocktails at Harkins' patrol car, breaking a window and igniting the vehicle.

Both vehicles were parked at the officers' homes during the infractions. Both fires were extinguished—the first by Turner's neighbors and the second by Harkins himself—before extensive damage to either vehicle or to nearby structures occurred.

"We wanted to send a message and we took it way too far," Morris said. "I just want to focus on making things right. I want to make it up to Harkins and Turner and their families. My goal is to get other kids to understand that all police officers are not the same."

Kaiser then took his turn at the podium.

"I just want to apologize to everyone in this whole county and community," Kaiser said. "I take full responsibility for my actions."

Hall and the council members offered some words of wisdom to the boys after they apologized.

"What defines you is how you handle these times of adversity when life seems unfair," Hall said. "I appreciate what you said. Forgiveness will come with time depending on your actions. Part of the reason I'm sitting here is because I overcorrected from going sideways in my own life."

Councilman Michael David said, "Learn from this and turn it on its other head. You will be forgiven and you'll be better people because of it."

Though the boys seemed nervous and ashamed during their apologies, Harkins expressed sentiments that the punishment could have been more severe.

"They were given a gift in my opinion," Harkins said at the meeting. "The goal was not to put them in jail for a long time, but the sentence is very light."

Hall did give the boys some food for thought before they left.

"You understand that if you get into any more trouble, it's going to be big trouble," Hall said.

He then asked the boys what their passions are and told them to pursue them.

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