The Lethbridge Police Service has charged six young men after an investigation into a pair of incidents over a two-week span, both at city skateparks.
The first incident took place on Aug. 12, after LPS received a report of a robbery at the SLP Skate Park along Mayor Magrath Drive South.
Less than two weeks later, on Aug. 25, officers responded to a report of several people with weapons in the parking lot near the skatepark at Legacy Regional Park.
According to police, in that incident, officers learned that a 16-year-old boy had been forced into a vehicle by several other young men, who demanded information about another teen they were looking for.
A pellet gun that police say closely resembled an actual pistol was used to intimidate the victim.
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Insp. Pete Christos with LPS told the media on Wednesday that the crime suppression team conducted a follow-up investigation, and four males were arrested: two 16-year-olds, a 17-year-old and 18-year-old Royer Sopal Caldera.
The identity of the minors cannot be released. Christos says the crime is especially alarming given the young ages of those who have been charged.
“It was definitely surprising. You know these things happen from time to time, but I wouldn’t say it’s rampant in the city,” Christos said. “I’m just glad that we were able to identify these individuals and hold them accountable.”
The four young men have been charged with kidnapping with a firearm, extortion using a firearm and assault with a weapon. One of the 16-year-olds was additionally charged with disguise with the intent of committing an indictable offence.
LPS determined that Caldera and one of the 16-year-olds were also involved in the previous incident at the SLP Skate Park.
Police then identified and arrested two more young men who were charged with robbery and intimidation: a 17-year old and 18-year-old Denis Mehmeti.
Christos says while skateparks are not an unusual location for crime, he believes everyone in the community is safe to use the parks.
“I can tell you that it’s just where kids congregate — whether it’s in a mall or in a parking lot — parks in general. I mean, anywhere can be targeted,” he said.
“I can tell you that since we’ve addressed these individuals now, I don’t foresee us having a repeat incident.”
According to LPS, all six individuals had judicial interim release hearings before a justice of peace, and all six have been released from custody with conditions.