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Shoplifting, Stolen Car Report Lands 5 Juveniles in Jail, but Larger Investigation Underway

Social media pages were busy on Tuesday with Bellevue residents questioning why a Hamilton County (Ohio) Sheriff's Department helicopter was circling the city.

Residents also saw police cruisers from Bellevue, Dayton, Newport, and Fort Thomas in pursuit.

But it was unclear what exactly was going on.

Even the Bellevue Police Department shared only limited details after things settled that evening. In a Facebook post on the department's page, the police said that officers arrived to the area around the Kroger grocery store on Donnermeyer Drive at around 10:36 a.m. "for a possible theft from the business."

Information was provided to police about a vehicle that was possibly involved, and when an officer tried to stop that vehicle, the driver and four passengers evacuated and fled.

The car was soon after discovered to have been stolen in Cincinnati.

Within an hour, all five had been apprehended at multiple spots around town. They were charged and taken to jail.

"No further information will be available," the police department said Tuesday night on Facebook.

On Wednesday night, during his report to the Bellevue city council at its monthly meeting, Police Chief Lee Estep called the situation "kind of like a major law enforcement event as far as Bellevue goes."

He elaborated on the captures, noting that a couple of the suspects were found hiding near a dumpster, and two others were captured on foot. A fifth was spotted by another suspect who was already being transported to jail, Estepp said.

But Estepp also offered further new information.

"I believe these gentlemen will be tied to several other crimes in Northern Kentucky and possibly southern Ohio," the chief told council.

Detectives at police agencies around the region have been contacted, he said.

One of the suspects suffered an injury while fleeing, his own fault, the chief said. No one else was hurt.

The River City News contacted Chief Estepp after his remarks to council when it was noticed that no inmates at the Campbell County Detention Center seemed to have any charges that would be associated with the crimes mentioned Tuesday or Wednesday.

Estepp confirmed that that is because all five suspects are juveniles and that information is not publicly listed.

"The initial call was that they were shoplifting," Estepp told RCN on Thursday. Asked whether the suspects had been armed, the chief said, "I'm not at liberty to say they were armed, but we did not find a firearm."

RCN asked about why such a large response from surrounding police agencies, including a helicopter, was needed for a report of shoplifting and then a stolen vehicle.

"We had other information but can't put that out right now," he said.

The five suspects have made an initial appearance in court and remain behind bars, he said.

More information would be available "hopefully soon," Estepp said.

The police department's work was applauded by city council members on Wednesday.

"That's pretty impressive," Councilman Steve Guidugli said of the joint effort of the local agencies.

Councilwoman Shauna Kruse concurred.

"It was pretty impressive to watch all the different police departments work together. They were everywhere. The helicopter was right by my house," she said. "It was a well-oiled machine."

-Michael Monks, editor & publisher

Photo: Bellevue Kroger (RCN file)