Three Kansas City-area men charged with destroying heavy equipment

Sunday, November 5, 2006

Southeast Missourian

INDEPENDENCE, Mo. -- Three suburban Kansas City men have been charged with destroying more than $300,000 worth of construction equipment in what prosecutors described as a joyride gone bad.

"It clearly and completely got out of hand," Jackson County Prosecutor Mike Sanders said. "It's a very large loss, not only to the construction companies, but to the community."

Construction officials arrived at the site of the future Bass Pro outdoor store development in Independence on Sept. 9 to find nearly a dozen pieces of heavy equipment -- excavators, cranes, bulldozers and earthmovers -- toppled, dented and smashed. Early estimates put the damage at near $1 million.

Sanders said Friday that the dollar loss was currently $350,000, but that the loss to developers and the community could reach $1 million.

Joshua A. Bacus, 18, Jason R. Culbertson, 19, and Christopher M. Walters, 19, are each charged with five counts of tampering and one count of first-degree property damage. All the charges are felonies.

Tampering is a charge of driving the vehicles without the owners' permission.

According to court documents, the three lived together in a home in Blue Springs.

A call to an anti-crime hot line, after a reward of more than $15,000 had been offered, led authorities to the three men. When questioned by police, they told authorities that they had been at a party that night, and that one of them had a key to construction equipment and they decided to go "ride some 'dozers."

All three told police that they did not intend to cause any damage, but that when one of them accidentally hit a trailer with a backhoe, they "all thought it was funny."

Three contractors' equipment was damaged. A Springfield company, Precision Pools, had the most, losing an excavator, a crane and a bulldozer, along with other equipment.

The company is building an 80-foot tall waterfall at the site and was three weeks from finishing the job when the equipment was damaged.

Owner Bob Bruette said it took insurance officials more than a month to determine if the equipment was repairable or a total loss. He received a settlement check within the past two weeks, he said, and the waterfall should be completed soon.

Officials plan to have the Bass Pro store open on schedule next fall.


Information from: The Kansas City Star, http://www.kcstar.com

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