tampabay.com

Teens crash gate at MacDill

With police following, the stolen car tears through a gate and passes the U.S. Central Command before being stopped, raising security concerns.

By ABBIE VANSICKLE
Published September 20, 2006


TAMPA — Two teens in a stolen car blew through a MacDill Air Force Base guard post early Wednesday, passing the base Burger King, commissary and U.S. Central Command before they turned around at a construction barrier.

Davaraye Mungin and Damian Bowie, both 16 and from Tampa, were taken into custody, accused of leading police in a headlong dash that ended when they rammed two police patrol cars.

The incident raised questions about security on the base, which houses the planning center for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“The incident will be investigated by our security personnel to look at what happened, to look at how the individuals gained access to the base,” said Lt. Larry van der Oord, a MacDill spokesman.

He said he can’t recall anyone getting so far onto the base without permission.

The spokesman declined to elaborate on MacDill safety measures, citing national security. He emphasized that the teens didn’t damage base facilities and were caught within minutes.

“They really did not pose a danger to the base,” he said.

It was close to 2:30 a.m. Wednesday when a Tampa police sergeant and an officer spotted the speeding white Chrysler near Dale Mabry Highway and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, said police spokeswoman Laura McElroy.

The vehicle was going 70 mph in a 40 mph zone, she said. It began to pull over for police, then sped away.

The officers radioed a description of the car. Farther south on Dale Mabry, another police unit saw the vehicle and followed closely.

As the Chrysler neared the base, police radioed to warn MacDill authorities, but it was too late, McElroy said. The message arrived just as the car sailed by the guard post, which was staffed.

Unlike the teens, police slowed at the gate and were waved on. Four or five military police joined in the search, McElroy said.

But the teens switched off the car’s lights, making it hard for officers to follow, she said. “They lost them on base.”

The officers headed south and the car reappeared, barreling toward them, she said.

The teens were on Hangar Loop Drive, which curves south, ending at a bowling alley and the public affairs office.

But the road was blocked by construction, so the teens were forced to turn around, van der Oord said.

Police tried to get out of the way. The Chrysler swerved toward one of the Tampa patrol cars, ramming it, and then hit a second Tampa patrol car.

The two teens left the car and tried to run, police said. Officers used a Taser on Mungin, the driver, McElroy said.
No one was seriously injured.

The teens were taken to Tampa General Hospital as a precaution, she said. They had only minor scrapes and bruises. They were taken to the Juvenile Assessment Center.

Mungin faces charges of grand theft of a vehicle, auto burglary, fleeing and eluding, aggravated battery on a law enforcement officer and resisting arrest with violence, police said.

Bowie faces charges of grand theft of a vehicle, auto burglary and possession of burglary tools, police said.

The teens also may face federal charges, police said.

Mungin has six prior arrests, including burglary, larceny and battery, state records show.

Tampa police arrested Bowie in June on charges of grand theft of a vehicle.

Mungin does not attend Hillsborough County schools, said school spokesman Stephen Hegarty. Bowie is enrolled in school, but officials could not confirm which one.

Attempts to reach the boys’ relatives were unsuccessful.

Wednesday’s escapade wasn’t the first test of base security.

In September 2003, three men mistook the MacDill gate for a toll booth and ended up in jail after police found crack cocaine in the car.

In September 2004, Oldsmar resident David Vice crashed his car into a base gate. Authorities found ammunition and antigovernment leaflets in the car. He was charged with fleeing and eluding police and was sentenced to two years’ probation.

In July 2005, a Lake Wales man and a Tampa woman were killed when their car rammed into a closed steel gate at the MacDill Avenue entrance to the base.

In the last year, military officials completed a $7-million renovation of the base’s gates, van der Oord said. The work was not linked to any specific security breach, he said.

The improvements included a roundabout near the entrance to the Dale Mabry gate and a new cover for the guardhouse that separated the traffic lanes from each other.

When asked about the changes, van der Oord said, “It’s our responsibility to stay vigilant.”

Times researcher Cathy Wos contributed to this report. Abbie VanSickle can be reached at vansickle@sptimes.com or 226-3373