August 2, 2013

Cops: They busted your windows

3 charged in vandalism spree

Rachel Brown

— The three men charged with shooting marbles through glass windows at 50 Dalton businesses last week are out on bond after investigators tracked down and arrested them, thanks to a tip.

“They could not give us a reason why they did it,” Whitfield County Sheriff’s Office Capt. Rick Swiney said of the suspects. “There’s no reasonable reason for doing something like that.”

Many business owners are still shocked and angered at the crimes, which authorities said were committed with two slingshots the perpetrators loaded with marbles. One of the men arrested, Ricky Herbert Pratt, 22, of Dalton, was a Whitfield County volunteer firefighter for about four years. Fire Chief Carl Collins said Pratt had taken a three-month leave beginning in July but was still on the roster to come back. Collins terminated him Thursday morning.

“He was just barely old enough to get in when he joined with us, and to be quite honest with you, I never had any problems out of him,” Collins said. “It kind of surprised me when the sheriff’s department notified me what was going on and all.”

Kinsey Logan Baggett, 17, of Resaca, and Nicholas Lane Atkins II, 20, of Dalton, were charged along with Pratt with multiple counts of felony criminal damage to property and criminal trespass. Working phone numbers for the three couldn’t immediately be found. Sam Sanders, an attorney who is representing Baggett, said “it’s too early to comment on the facts.” It wasn’t immediately clear whether the other men had attorneys.

All three were out on $10,000 bond. Swiney said they had apparently all been friends for a while.

He said investigators located Baggett after someone provided a tip on Wednesday. Baggett drove the silver F-150 spotted in a surveillance video the Dalton Police Department distributed to news media. The sheriff’s office arrested the other two men on Thursday after obtaining warrants.

About seven of the damaged businesses were in the county while the rest were inside the city limits of Dalton. Police department spokesman Bruce Frazier said officers are still working to sort out all the charges. The vandalism crimes could be misdemeanors if the property damage was under $500 and felonies if it was over $500. Separate charges are levied for each business affected, and some of the owners are still assessing their costs, he said.

According to a press release from the sheriff’s office, the three “started out hitting street signs with the marbles and progressed to windows during the night.” Businesses on Thornton Avenue, Hamilton Street, Walnut Avenue, Glenwood Avenue and Morris Street were among those affected.

Nicole Williams of Tease Salon, which recently moved to Hamilton Street from the bypass, said one of the windows there was broken.

“When I first found out it was marbles (they used) and all of that, I thought, ‘What happened to just good old eggs?’” she said.

At Crutchfield’s Furniture on Hamilton Street, owner Jason Bunch said on Thursday that workers were just then replacing a window the vandals broke. Bunch said he hopes the culprits get more than “just a slap on the wrist.”

“There needs to be some sort of justice served, harsh enough where more people aren’t inclined to do it,” Bunch said. “Something needs to be done just so they learn from their mistakes.”

It’s too early to know what kind of sentence the men could face. Felony charges typically carry at least one year in prison on each count, but certain factors can reduce that requirement.

“This is pretty extreme, that many different businesses damaged during one night and the dollar amount it’s going to take to replace all the windows that were damaged,” Swiney said.