For nearly two weeks in January, authorities say, Kashawn Wertman and Nautica Argue terrorized several dozen vehicle owners during a carjacking spree in 15 cities over three metro counties.
Carrying guns, the two committed the crimes in driveways, motel parking lots, at schools and day cares and against food delivery workers, according to felony criminal complaints filed Friday in Hennepin County.
Argue, 19, and Wertman, 18, were arrested Tuesday in St. Paul after fleeing from sheriff's deputies in a stolen Audi.
Wertman told police he got the car from a friend and didn't know it was stolen. He then told the officer they should be out arresting murderers and not car thieves, the complaint said.
The case represents the most successful effort in combatting an ongoing carjacking wave, a top priority for Twin Cities law enforcement and prosecutors. Nearly 1,000 carjackings have been reported in the past year.
"The excellent police work by numerous law enforcement agencies in the greater Twin Cities area has resulted in the apprehension of two dangerous people," Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said Friday. "Our office will now do our part as the charging agency in the criminal justice system and prosecute these defendants to the fullest extent of the law."
Wertman and Argue, both of St. Paul, are facing a combined 31 felony counts, ranging from aggravated robbery to theft from a person. The investigation continues and additional charges likely will be filed, Freeman said.
Bail has been set for Argue at $250,000 without conditions, $150,000 with conditions. Wertman's bail is pending.
According to the criminal complaint, Wertman and Argue were involved in nearly two dozen carjacking-related offenses, which occurred in St. Louis Park, Plymouth, Richfield, Brooklyn Center, Minneapolis, Edina, White Bear Lake, Roseville, Columbia Heights, Lakeville, Eagan, Little Canada, Burnsville, Woodbury and St. Paul. A total of 10 vehicles were stolen violently from victims, then used to commit other offenses.
On Tuesday, Ramsey County sheriff's deputies went to the 1700 block of Maryland Avenue in St. Paul in search of Wertman. Officers later encountered the stolen Audi being driven by Wertman, with Argue in the passenger seat.
When officers attempted to stop the vehicle, Wertman sped off. He eventually drove into the Cedar Riverside neighborhood in Minneapolis and back to the 1700 block of Maryland Avenue, where additional police were waiting.
Investigators found pictures of the suspects together on Facebook. Wertman also posted a picture of himself holding a firearm with an extended magazine.
Wertman already was on probation supervision in an assault and robbery case from when he was a juvenile. He also has a pending felony charge of being a felon with a weapon.
According to the charges: Thesuspects' spree began at noon Jan. 7 in a St. Louis Park driveway. The victim was warming her Toyota Rav 4 and stepped inside her house for a minute.
Less than two hours later, they used the stolen vehicle to steal a Jeep Cherokee from a food driver in White Bear Lake. The Jeep was used two days later in carjackings of a mother going to watch her child's basketball game at a school in Plymouth and a woman in a grocery store parking lot in Little Canada.
Each stolen vehicle over the next week was used in other carjackings, with Wertman and Argue using stolen credits cards to buy gas and merchandise, the complaint said. The attacks grew more violent, with the suspects wearing masks and hurting the victims as they were removed from their vehicles.
In a Richfield parking lot, the suspects attempted to steal a car, demanding the dogs that were inside the vehicle, the complaint said. They headed across the county to a Brooklyn Center fitness center where they punched a woman in the face and stole her Porsche.
Most of the carjackings were committed in the afternoon and often took place several hours apart. Most of the stolen vehicles were high-end models.
Wertman and Argue admitted to certain offenses when speaking with law enforcement following their arrests, Freeman said.