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Arkansas suspects likened hitting pedestrians to video game, police say
The two Arkansas men charged with purposefully driving a nearly two-ton car into a group of runners Sunday allegedly described the experience afterward as "fun," according to court documents, and even likened it to playing a popular video game in which criminals cause death and destruction amid big-city traffic.
Vincent T. Anderson, 19, of Little Rock, and Marcus E. Jones, 27, of Cotton Plant, allegedly made those remarks and others in smartphone videos that were found in their possession, according to probable-cause statements that outline the police's version of events. The two men also made reference, the statements say, to the stolen 1994 Ford Thunderbird, making the comment the owner would be "missing it."
The 12 pages of documents prepared by Cape Girardeau patrolmen Bradley Neels and Christopher Newton were made public on the same day Anderson and Jones made largely perfunctory appearances before Judge Gary Kamp. Both were arraigned and pleaded not guilty via teleconference from the Cape Girardeau County Jail.
The alleged driver, Anderson, faces charges of first-degree assault, motor vehicle tampering, leaving the scene of an accident and one count of resisting arrest that was elevated to a fourth felony because prosecutors say there was a serious risk of injury or death to both the public and police.
Jones faces lesser criminal charges of second-degree vehicle tampering in the automobile theft and a misdemeanor charge of resisting arrest. Both remained in custody on cash-only bonds late Monday, Anderson on $75,000 and $15,000 for Jones.
The police discovered the videos, according to the documents, on a cellphone in Jones' possession. Police had already interviewed the two men separately, according to the statement, and they had offered changing and conflicting versions of what happened that morning. The report says that Jones gave permission to police to examine the phone and an officer found the videos.
In the first video, the statement says, Anderson talks openly about stealing a vehicle he believes is a Cougar. He also refers to hitting the pedestrians with the vehicle, commenting that they "ran over three or four people." Then, the statement says, Anderson adds that they had "fun" and says it was "like on 'Grand Theft Auto,'" the video game.
A second video appears to show Jones and Anderson riding in what the statement describes as a "Ford passenger car," with Jones saying that the owner is going to "be missing" his vehicle. While driving, the report says, Anderson ran stop signs and red lights several times. It also shows the two get out of the vehicle and begin to walk down the street, the report says, just moments before they were apprehended.
The police statements shed light on the certain facts of the case, such as how the vehicle was stolen -- it was left running and unlocked, for example. While telling, the contents of the documents did little for the victims, who said they still are left trying to make sense of a seemingly senseless act.
One of the six runners was Brian Kelpe, who owns Missouri Running Co. in Cape Girardeau. Kelpe has struggled for answers since the incident. In the end, though, he doesn't expect to find any.
Said Kelpe: "I'm not sure a rational mind can make any sense of an irrational act."
Paul Schnell, another of the runners, watched as the Ford crossed lanes, in his estimation, to hit them on purpose. And he too has been wondering what would possess someone to do what the men are alleged to have done. He's come to nothing but dead ends, he said.
"You can't justify running over people on purpose," Schnell said. "There's no good reason for it."
Schnell was one of the three who was hurt, though he describes his injuries as just a few scrapes and bruises.
None of the runners were badly hurt and for that Billy Mayfield is grateful. Mayfield is the owner of the vehicle that was stolen. Mayfield, a longtime custodian at Cape Girardeau's city hall, admitted that he left it running Sunday morning when he went into Kidd's convenience store on Broadway to buy bread, soda and a few other groceries.
When he came back a few minutes later, his car was gone.
In his defense, Mayfield said, the Thunderbird's alternator has been acting up. If he shut it off, he was worried it wouldn't start. He worried all day Sunday after he heard his car basically had been used as a weapon in a random act of violence. When he heard no one was seriously hurt, he heaved a sigh of relief.
"I didn't care about my car," he said. "Tires can be replaced. People can't."
100 Court St., Jackson, Mo.
Broadway and West End Boulevard, Cape Girardeau, Mo.
William Street and South Main Street, Cape Girardeau, Mo.