KEARNEY — When is enough enough?
That’s the question a Kearney man wants state officials to answer after three teens escaped from Kearney’s Youth Rehabilitation and Treatment Center on Saturday and allegedly stole his car.
“It is really sad that a community of 40,000 people have to go on lock down to protect ourselves from 100 kids that are supposedly not criminals. And yet, we have to hide in fear. And that’s not right,” said Jon Wilke of Kearney, whose stolen vehicle was still missing today.
Saturday evening three teens — a 16-year-old and two 17-year-olds — escaped from YRTC. Jennifer Brantley, a spokesperson with the state Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees YRTC, didn’t know exactly when they fled.
Wilke believes the teens ran south to U.S. Highway 30 then to an area south of the University of Nebraska at Kearney, where they allegedly took Wilke’s 2010 Ford Focus from his stepson. The 23-year-old man had stopped at a home near 12th Street, south of UNK, parked in the alley and briefly went into his father’s garage to retrieve a heater.
When Wilke’s stepson returned to the car, in no more than two minutes, Wilke said the car was gone. Wilke was waiting to meet his stepson in north Kearney, when his stepson called to say the car had been stolen.
“I thought he was joking, but I could tell in his voice that he was dead serious and very distraught. It spooked him really, really bad,” Wilke said.
A friend of Wilke’s pieced together comments a Broken Bow woman made on Facebook about having her car stolen. The Broken Bow woman saw both stolen cars together in Broken Bow.
Saturday night Broken Bow Police Department officers were called to an attempted stolen vehicle. Suspects tried to steal a vehicle, Capt. Dan Hanson said, but the theft was thwarted.
Moments later the suspects stole another car that had been left running in Broken Bow. The car was last seen driving east on Highway 2 out of Broken Bow.
Both stolen vehicles are suspected of being involved in a pursuit in Sherman County near Hazard, Hanson said. Sherman County Sheriff’s Office officials were unavailable for comment late this morning.
Brantley said two of the teens were apprehended by police Sunday and returned to YRTC where they are being held in the Dickson Security Unit, There will be a disciplinary hearing for the teens, she said, and they will lose privileges while they work to get back to normal programming, Brantley said.
According to juvenile court records one of the 17-year-old teens previously escaped from YRTC in June 2015. He was placed on probation for that offense, and released from probation on Dec. 8.
Late this morning one teen was still missing, and Brantley said state officials continue to work with police in locating the teen.
Wilke hasn’t heard anything from police about his car, and believes it is with the missing teen.
“It’s so frustrating. I’m at my wits end because of the whole situation,” he said. “What if there would’ve been a child in the back seat of that car, and they stole that car with that child in there? When is enough enough?