Minnetonka carjacking caught on video draws packed crowd to council chambers

The Aug. 17 carjacking has generated a wider conversation about how to handle the violent crime of carjacking.

MINNETONKA, Minn. — A carjacking caught on camera in Minnetonka drew dozens of people to the city’s council chambers on Monday and spurred lengthy discussion about how to prosecute the violent crime.

Craig Beason’s wife and son were the victims of the Aug. 17 carjacking, which occurred in the family’s driveway. After the incident, Beason asked people across the metro to attend Monday’s regularly scheduled Minnetonka City Council meeting and use the public comment session to call attention to what he sees as gaps in the criminal justice system.

“The reason I’m here is because we’re tired of this. We’re tired of the crime,” Beason said at the podium. “I want to know, what can we do to invoke change? How can we change this?”

Before the meeting, Beason said he intended his message for elected officials and specifically Hennepin County Attorney Mary Moriarty, because “that’s where I believe it’s broken.”

In the Aug. 17 Minnetonka case, Moriarty’s office has charged 21-year-old Romell Lewis with first-degree carjacking — the first such case charged under Minnesota’s new stiffened carjacking laws. She said charges against a second suspect involved are pending after police forwarded her the case on Friday.

“There were two really strong reasons that stood out here. We learned this was part of a broader, more sophisticated kind of car-theft ring targeting high-end cars, not just an impulsive ‘we see a car and we’re going to go take it,'” Moriarty said in an interview with KARE 11. “Also, the assault on the 13-year-old boy.”

Moriarty also responded to criticism — some of which surfaced at the Minnetonka council meeting on Monday night — that her office has not been aggressive enough in prosecuting carjackings or violent crimes involving young adults and juveniles. In response, she said that “less than 2%” of cases involving stolen cars in Hennepin County are submitted to her office, due to the difficulty of investigating the crimes.

“We can’t hold people accountable if cases aren’t submitted to us,” Moriarty said. “When cases are submitted to us, and we have sufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt, we will charge it. And we will hold that person accountable. It was because of these really low clearance rates, of 2%, one of the reasons we started our youth auto theft initiative.”

According to Moriarty, her office started that initiative in June, by partnering with police to identify repeat offenders of carjackings or auto theft.

“100% of those families that we made contact with were not surprised that their youth was kind of on the radar screen,” Moriarty said. “We are then connecting that family and that youth to resources, that hopefully stabilizes that youth. So that we’re not actually seeing them come into the system.”

BCA data shows that 87% of reported carjackings in 2022 occurred in the cities of Minneapolis or St. Paul. The carjacking in the Beason family’s driveway last month was the first reported case in Minnetonka in 2023. 

However, Minnetonka Police are separately investigating 49 auto thefts in the city this year. Capt. Andy Gardner said these cases involving stolen cars, with or without force, are often hard to investigate.

“For a whole variety of reasons. With the younger kids, we’re finding that they don’t really have a place where they put their head down at night,” Gardner said, “so it’s kind of difficult to track them down.”

Gardner said at least four suspects are involved in the Aug. 17 carjacking of Beason’s family, and that they are part of a broader carjacking ring in the Twin Cities.

“What happened to Mr. Beason’s family is not acceptable and shocking,” Gardner said. “I commend him for kind of rallying the troops on this and getting the word out.”

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