Police charge UH students in car burglary ring

Four out of the five UH students who have been in Police custody since Monday for a string of vehicle burglaries have been released on a $10,000 bond.

Friendswood police charged the students with engaging in organized criminal activity, a felony, for 12 vehicle burglaries dating back to Aug. 7.

The students are 19 year-olds Austin Burchett and Randle Umeh and 18-year-olds Ryan Guillory, Dideon Udo and Mandela Scipio.

Burchett turned himself in to Galveston county jail Tuesday after hearing of the warrant out for his arrest, Friendswood Police Department Public Information Officer Karen Peterson said.

FPD also charged a sixth suspect and former UH student James Ivy, 21, who was arrested by UH Police Department and transported to a Harris County jail, Peterson said.

Out of the dozen vehicles burglarized, one belonged to an honorary Galveston county deputy constable, where a constable’s badge and gun were stolen. Both were later recovered.

Among the items stolen from the vehicles were credit cards, which the suspects were caught on video using at a local Wal-Mart, according to FPD.

FPD stopped three of the suspects for loitering near the intersection of Blackhawk Boulevard and Shady Oaks Lane the night following the first reported burglarized vehicle, noting that it was linked to a UH Police Department call from the summer. The car was later stopped by UHPD during a routine traffic stop.

From there, FPD worked with UHPD to identify the individuals being charged.

"Officer Paul Mauro assisted Friendswood in determining where the students were living for the fall," UHPD Capt. Brad Wigtil said

Although Friendswood police suspect that the men charged might also be linked to other vehicle burglaries in the Houston area, Wigtil refused to comment on whether UHPD is investigating a connection with burglaries on campus.

"I have no reason to believe at this point that they were involved in any criminal activity on campus," Wigtil said.

As of Thursday, 17 motor vehicles have been burglarized since the start of fall semester.

A Facebook group called "Free the Friendswood Six" has been created by UH student Walter John Barta, who wrote, "We are dedicated to freeing these six black men from the clutches of the bigoted, racist authorities. Knowing these men, I affirm their benevolence and recommend that all anti-racists do the same."

Scipio, who was released on bail, commented to the group, quoting Nelson Mandela, "There is no easy walk to freedom anywhere, and many of us will have to pass through the valley of the shadow of death again and again before we reach the mountaintop of our desires."

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