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VOICE OF A CARJACKER : 'Stealing Cars Is Lots of Fun'

April 30, 1993

I n February, 1992, Dave, then 14, and two other young men put a gun to a woman's head, forced her into her 1982 BMW and drove it from a Lancaster mall .

After two more car theft attempts, Dave was arrested. He was tried and committed to the Fred C. Nelles School of the California Youth Authority in Whittier.

Its jurisdiction lasts until he is 25, but he will be eligible for a parole hearing in July, 1995.

The slender, 6-foot 15-year-old had been living with his older brother and mother, an unemployed telephone operator.

Dave talked with Times staff writer Gary Libman . None of the names used in this account are real.

Me and my two friends were trying to have fun on a Friday night, and there was nothing to do. So we decided to break into a car. We just wanted to drive it around and take it to the San Fernando Valley.

We went to the shopping mall. We were looking for a Buick Regal or an Oldsmobile Cutlass because they're easy to break into. But we couldn't find any. . . .

But when we started walking back home, we saw an empty BMW. We didn't know how to break into that kind of car, but Hank, the 18-year-old who was with us, had a plan. He also had a gun.

Walt, who was 16, was also with us. I was tight with him. If something was going to happen, we were going to do it together.

Hank I didn't know so well. But he was like the shot caller. Whatever he said, we would go along. There was something about him. He could get away with lots of stuff.

He told us how we could take the BMW without having to break into it. We hid under a big truck that stood way off the ground. When the car owner came out of the JC Penney's store . . . we ran up on her. Hank put the gun to her head and pushed her into the car.

Me and Walt got in the front seat on the other side. Hank drove off with a gun at her head. We were all squished into the front seat.

At the entrance to the mall, we stopped and Walt and I put the woman into the back seat with us.

I put a knife to her and told her she'd better not say anything. I threatened her with her life while my friend went through her purse. She was crying, but we had no plans for her. I was trying to tell her to calm down, that we were going to let her go as long as she didn't mess up.

We didn't fondle her, but the courts said one of us did.

We left the mall and hit the freeway. We stopped after a mile and told her to get out. She ran from the car and started jumping and waving her arms to stop a car driving by.

We grabbed her and put her back in the car and got off the freeway. When we let her off, there wasn't anything but a field and a house way in the background. . . .

We drove to Hank's house. His girlfriend's home was right across the street. That's when the battery went dead on the car. . . . We had plans to blow it up, but Hank was scared that when it blew up, it would hit his girlfriend's house.

We broke pieces off the car--the front symbol and the sign off the hood--so if police came by, they wouldn't recognize it. A week later the car was discovered by Lancaster police.

I had driven stolen cars, broken windows to get into cars and been with people who took cars six or seven times, but I'd never been caught. We kept them two days at most and left them somewhere like an apartment parking lot.

It seemed like everyone I hung around with was stealing cars. Older people were buying them. The girls at school wanted the people with the best things--the style.

Stealing cars is lots of fun. Sometimes you're worried about getting caught. It makes you more nervous, and that makes it more fun. Knowing what everyone is going to say when they see you with the car is also fun. You're the center of attention. . . .

I'm learning through my social-studies teacher here that the woman we took the car from was hurt real bad (emotionally) and that's something she's got to live with. I wouldn't want that to happen to me or my family.

I wish I could make up for what we did to that woman, but I can't.

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