WARREN, Mich. – Warren police thought they caught four teenagers throwing rocks at cars off an I-696 overpass, but now, the charges have been dropped.
The Macomb County Prosecutor's Office dropped the charges against Johnathan Pendell, Nicholas Hewelt and Joseph Rossi, all 19, and John Portalski, 18. But it wasn't the police who did the sleuthing to exonerate the teens.
Angry parents said they knew their sons didn't and couldn't have committed the crime. They said the police weren't so anxious to gather the evidence that would clear the teenagers.
Gloede Street in Warren is a popular place for high schoolers to go for a view of I-696, especially from a railroad trestle. But last July, somebody started throwing rocks off the overpass and hitting cars. Warren police arrested the four teenagers that month.
Pendell said he remembers the arrest.
"When he opened the door, I was instantly shaking," Pendell said. "I was frightened. I didn't know what was going on."
The teens were charged with malicious destruction of property, a five-year felony.
"They were guilty until proven innocent, and the burden was on us," said Christine Pendell, Johnathan Pendell's mother.
The parents built a video timeline. The first damage calls started at 11:30 p.m., and the teens were seen leaving the MJR movie theater at 11:40 p.m. A nearby church parking lot video showed them not at the trestle at 11:56 p.m.
Portalski said he regrets going there later.
"It was my fault that were were even there, so I felt I put them in that position in the first place," he said. "So I'm grateful that it's now all over."
"Without mom getting that tape, we might have been falsely accused for something we didn't do," Johnathan Pendell said.