National News

15-year-old boy dead weeks after reported stolen car crash in St. Petersburg

Posted January 2, 2018 10:46 p.m. EST

ST. PETERSBURG -- A 15-year-old boy who was a passenger in a car that was reported stolen after crashing into a tree in November died from his injuries early Sunday, according to police.

Alijah Armstead was in a white Chevrolet Camaro that hit a dip in the road on 11th Avenue S near 40th Street before smashing into a tree Nov. 19, investigators said. A 14-year-old boy was behind the wheel. While officers investigated, someone reported the Camaro as stolen.

The 14-year-old suffered serious injuries. No charges had been filed as of Tuesday. St. Petersburg police spokeswoman Sandra Bentil said investigators were still reviewing evidence.

"The passenger dying is significant in that process," Bentil said.

The Tampa Bay Times isn't naming the 14-year-old because of his age and because he hasn't been charged with a crime. His family could not be reached Tuesday afternoon.

If the case is confirmed to have involved an auto theft, Armstead would be the ninth teen from Pinellas County to die in a little over two years in a car theft epidemic that has bedeviled local law enforcement. His criminal record does not include previous stolen car charges.

Teens in Pinellas joyride across the county, frequently making off with vehicles that drivers leave unlocked with keys inside. The crisis was the subject of a Times series last year, "Hot Wheels," which described how children in an 18-month period here crashed stolen cars once every four days. Police arrested more juveniles in auto theft incidents in Pinellas than in any other Florida county.

Three Clearwater teens died in August when they crashed a stolen sport utility vehicle at more than 100 mph on Tampa Road in Palm Harbor.

Investigators didn't describe Tuesday how Armstead and the other boy came to be in the Camaro or what they were doing before the crash. The vehicle smashed into the tree in a front yard about 11:25 a.m. on a Sunday. Emergency responders had to pull both boys from the wreckage.

Times senior researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report.

SEVERAL DEAD IN TWO YEARS

In August, three teen boys died after a fiery high-speed crash sent their stolen Ford Explorer spinning through the air down Tampa Road. In the prior two years, three girls in a stolen car drowned in a pond, and two other kids were killed in separate incidents involving stolen cars. The Tampa Bay Times spent more than a year trying to understand why so many teens steal cars in Pinellas County, despite the rising death toll. To learn more about what the Times found, read the "Hot Wheels" series at tampabay.com/cartheft.