Cops: Grand Theft Auto video game inspired crimes -- Newsday.com
BY MATTHEW CHAYES
9:21 PM EDT, June 26, 2008
Teenagers who police say went on a video-game-inspired late-night crime spree were arraigned Thursday after police say they mugged a man outside a New Hyde Park supermarket and menaced motorists in Garden City with a baseball bat, crowbar and broomstick.
The teens told detectives they were imitating the Grand Theft Auto video game series where players steal cars, beat up other characters and score points for committing crimes, authorities said.
Police have identified at least three victims: a man they said was severely beaten and had his teeth knocked out during a robbery; a would-be carjacking victim who called 911; and a driver whose van was smashed with a bat.
Nassau Det. Lt. Raymond CotÃ© said there are likely more victims who were attacked.
At one point during the spree, the group encountered young people their age.
"They realize they know them from school and they can't rob them," CotÃ© said. "Two of them they enlist in this crime spree and now they're joining the pack. It's an angry mob of youths."
Arrested and charged with felony robbery were Dylan Laird, 17, of Southborough, Mass., and Stephen Attard, 18, Samuel Philip, 16, Brandon Cruz, 15, and Gurnoor Singh, 14, all of New Hyde Park.
Police did not release photos of Cruz or Gurnoor Singh because of their age.
Jaspreet Singh, 17, also of New Hyde Park, was charged with criminal possession of stolen property.
All are charged as adults.
The teens committed the crimes Tuesday night into Wednesday morning, police said.
It began late Tuesday when the group was hanging out at a park in New Hyde Park, CotÃ© said.
"They decide that they're going to go do some street robberies, emulating the popular fictional character Niko Bellic," CotÃ© said, referring to a star of Grand Theft Auto IV: Liberty City.
The group accosted a man near a New Hyde Park supermarket who had just finished an evening shift and was waiting for a bus.
"They approach him from behind, force him to the ground, start punching him, kicking him, knocking the teeth out of his head and take what he has on him," CotÃ© said.
They stole a small amount of cash and a cell phone, he said.
After fleeing, the suspects broke into sheds and storage units in the area in their hunt for makeshift weapons.
Near New Hyde Park Road and Stewart Avenue, they formed a human roadblock. A woman driving a 2008 BMW was forced to stop. Cops say the group wanted to carjack her.
"They surrounded her car. They tried to get in. She was scared for her life," CotÃ© said. They stole her cigarettes, and she sped off and called 911, he said.
The six suspects were finally arrested by Garden City police responding to a 911 call shortly after the group approached the third victim and hit his car with a bat.
Staff writers Sophia Chang and Joseph Mallia contributed to this story.