Residents of a wealthy Minneapolis suburb flocked to a city council meeting this week to demand stricter carjacking laws, after a local mom and her 13-year-old son were forced out of her vehicle in the family's driveway.
The brazen theft on August 17 has sparked outrage in affluent Minnetonka - a furor that erupted Monday at the highly attended city council meeting.
Hundreds packed the government building to voice their distaste over the situation, and to air concerns over the violent attack on victim Kelly Beason, which was filmed and happened as she was unloading groceries.
Several, including her husband Craig, called for it to be the first case in the county to make use of a newly passed law that calls for more serious charges for carjackers. Passed in July, it could see offenders slapped with a sentence of up to 13 years.
Taking the podium, Craig warned how the same crime - which in this case occurred in front of the couple's 13-year-old son - could happen to anyone, and blamed the Twin Cities' DA for allowing such brazen acts to occur, despite a recent arrest.
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Residents of a wealthy Minneapolis suburb flocked to a city council meeting this week to demand stricter carjacking laws, after a local mom had her car stolen directly from her driveway last month
The August 17 incident was captured by a neighbor's security camera has since spawned outrage in affluent Minnetonka - a furor that finally erupted Monday before the packed council
'I think the reason I'm here is I'm tired of this,' Craig Beason told the amalgam of attendees Monday in what proved to be a packed procession.
'We're tired of the crime. We want to know what we can do to invoke change.'
Others aired similar calls, despite violent crime remaining decidedly rare in the suburb, and for the most part confined to nearby Minneapolis, where motor vehicle thefts this year have been on the rise.
The next, cops announced what they billed as a breakthrough not only in the case surrounding the Beasons, but a string of similar vehicle thefts in the city as well, with the arrest of one of the men they believed carjacked the victim.
That man is 21-year-old Romell R. Lewis of Milwaukee, who is currently being held on $200,000 bail at the Hennepin County Jail after being arrested at a traffic stop in St Paul this past Tuesday.
His first court appearance is slated for Wednesday afternoon, where prosecutors will allege he assaulted Beason and her 13-year-old son in their driveway, while three others, thought to be youths, stole her SUV.
Charges filed show how the DA's office heeded residents requests for action against the criminals responsible for this particular theft, which was captured on a neighbor’s security camera and has ignited fierce discussion about public safety.
Charged with felony instances of aggravated robbery and burglary, Lewis is the first in the state to be hit with first-degree carjacking, a new Minnesota statute passed this past month that matches the sentencing guidelines of third-degree murder.
victim Kelly Beason and Husband Craig said their family has been forced to live in fear following the incident, which happened in broad daylight and serves as an extension of a crime spree in neighboring Minneapolis
'I think the reason I'm here is I'm tired of this,' Craig Beason told the amalgam of attendees Monday in what proved to be a packed procession. 'We're tired of the crime. We want to know what we can do to invoke change'
Hundreds packed the government building to voice their distaste over the violent attack, which was filmed and happened as the mom was unloading groceries. It has since ignited fierce discussion about public safety
Others aired similar calls, despite violent crime remaining decidedly rare in the suburb, and for the most part confined to nearby Minneapolis, where motor vehicle thefts this year have been on the rise
The day after residents demanded action, cops in St Paul arrested the man they believe was seen beating the mother in the footage, 21-year-old Romell R. Lewis of Milwaukee. He's the first in the state hit with first-degree carjacking, a new, strict statute passed this past month
Passed with a 7-2 vote from the Minnesota Sentencing Guidelines Commission on July 27, it went into effect August 1, and makes instances of carjacker where the victim is assaulted a more serious, level 9 offense.
As a result, penalties will range from about 7 years to about 13 years in prison depending on criminal history - up from four year sentences seen when motor thefts were often prosecuted as aggravated robberies.
Calls from fed-up citizens not only Monday but over the past four years made way for the amendment, as carjacking has proved to be one of the Twin Cities most prevailing issues since 2019, particularly after the pandemic death of George Floyd in May 2020.
Carjacking in the state increased over five fold between 2019-2020 as a result, with homicides spiking to the second highest levels ever as lockdowns and protests in the wake of Floyd 's death by a Minneapolis police officer devastated the city.
In 2021, nearly two people per day were carjacked in Minneapolis - a statistic that was almost matched in nearby St. Paul, where auto thefts over the past two years have since somewhat fizzled out dropping 36 percent this year compared to this same time in 2022.
Carjackings during that same time period also dropped 50 percent from 40 to 20.
However, in Minneapolis, both crimes remain rampant, with the city recording a 77 percent spike in motor vehicle thefts in the first six months of 2023 - likely forcing lawmakers' hands with the recent guidance.
Lewis and other accomplices confronted the woman and her son in their driveway on Aug. 17 after they returned home from grocery shopping
They drove off with the family's car after assaulting both victims. The attack was captured by another resident's doorbell camera
Police tracked the vehicle and suspects via GPS to a store in Edina. Surveillance video from that encounter helped investigators identify the suspect
On Monday, many - including Gleason's husband - called on lawmakers to not only make an arrest, but to make an example by issuing charges in accordance with the new law afterwards.
These calls came despite the August incident being the town's first and only carjacking this year, with only one occurring they year prior as well.
Still, residents of the wealthy western enclave made their thoughts known.
'We, the law-abiding people of this community have had enough,' one citizen of the suburb of roughly 50,000 said as they took the podium.
Another added: 'When these kinds of car thefts and [some] with guns are happening in a community like this, something needs to be done.'
As for the victim's husband, his time on the podium saw him hone in on Hennepin County, and Minnesota District Attorney Mary Moriarty.
He argued that she's 'stood on' the position 'that she was not going to prosecute for crimes like this [carjackings]' since being elected in 2022, and cited the recent rise in theft in nearby Minneapolis as a product of her policies.
'I think [it] is absolutely just irresponsible at best,' he said. 'The only person that can do something about this right now is the Hennepin County DA.'
The very next day, cops announced they had made an arrest, and were planning to make an example out of Lewis - who they said they believe masterminded a string of similar heists in Minneapolis.
Capt. Andy Gardner with the Minnetonka Police Department said in a statement: 'This is a significant development in a string of cases that took place across the Twin Cities in recent weeks.
'This is the first case in Hennepin County making use of a new law that calls for more serious charges for violent offenders in carjackings.'
Craig's time on the podium saw him hone in on Minnesota District Attorney Mary Moriarty, whom he said 'stood on' the position 'that she was not going to prosecute for crimes like this [carjackings]' since being elected in 2022
Calls from fed-up citizens not only Monday but over the past four years made way for the amendment, as carjacking has proved to be one of the Twin Cities most prevailing issues since 2019, particularly after the pandemic death of George Floyd in May 2020
An accompanying criminal complaint filed with Lewis' arrest revealed police tracked Gleasons' SUV and four suspects via GPS to a store in Edina, where surveillance video helped investigators identify Lewis.
A warrant was subsequently issued to his arrest, which came weeks later during the aforementioned traffic stop in St Paul.
The complaint further revealed how investigators believe Lewis and the other suspects - who as of Thursday remain at large - targeted and followed the victim back to her home the morning of the incident.
They also aired the belief Lewis was the one seen roughing up Gleason in the footage as she returned to her car after briefly leaving it unattended, with another of the suspects seen violently dragging her away from the car
Beason on Wednesday recalled to Fox News how the suspects committed the act, following her home from the grocery store and even entering her garage where her husband's car was partke - before settling for hers.
"I saw a couple of guys run up our driveway, and I ran out to the garage to see what was going on.'
She told cops that that was when she yelled out for her son to call the police - spurring the child to exit the garage onto the driveway holding his phone.
That's when Lewis allegedly ran from the woman to the boy, shoving the child to the ground, dragging him and attempting to take his cell phone. He and his accomplices were then able to drive off. Both victims were uninjured.
Still, Craig said at Monday's city council meeting that his son still has 'trauma' from the ordeal.
'He wakes up in the middle of the night at every car that drives down the street –thinking that someone's going to come back again,' he said.
He told KTSP-TV on Tuesday that he hopes the first-degree carjacking charge against Lewis sticks.
“It was really traumatic. I mean to get attacked in your front yard, in your driveway at 11 o’clock on a Thursday?” Beason told the local news station after the suspect's arrest.
'The harsher penalties are something that absolutely need to happen and we need to scare these individuals that if they do these crimes they’re going to be put in jail and for a long time.'
Longtime Minnetonka Mayor Brad Wiersum, told KSTP he agreed - and wanted to see Lewis face the max penalty allowed under state law.
'I am thankful for the new, more aggressive law on carjackings,' he said Tuesday.
'I am hoping that this qualifies for the type of carjacking that can be prosecuted to the full extent of that law.'