Police: Bellevue teens face charges in school playground fire

Teens lit fireworks at playground, officers say
Posted at 11:24 PM, Jul 02, 2017
and last updated 2017-07-03 18:36:27-04

BELLEVUE, Ky. -- Flames engulfed a playground slide at Grandview Elementary after three teens set off fireworks near the school Sunday, police said.

The teens were playing with fireworks at the playground at about 4 p.m. Police said the mulch caught fire 15-20 minutes after they left, and the playground equipment went up in flames shortly after.

Two of the teens face criminal mischief charges, and all three are charged with shoplifting the fireworks, Bellevue police said. 

Police said they took the three into custody at about 9 p.m. Sunday, but that was only after officers had posted to Facebook and asked for the community’s help in identifying the teens.

Sgt. Jon McClain said officers received several tips from the Facebook posts. An off-duty officer recognized the juveniles; he was behind them in the checkout line at Kroger.

“It’s more good community work than anything, being able to put it out there on Facebook, the off-duty officer being aware of his surroundings and able to recall stuff, the community interacting with us on Facebook and giving us tips,” McClain said.

Bellevue resident Beth Kakuma-Depew said she saw a giant plume of black smoke rolling over the playground.

Though she’s sad the playground caught fire, she said the whole situation is a testament of the sense of community in Bellevue.

“It was great to see the whole neighborhood come out and really care about this,” she said. “I saw a lot of people stopping by, worried about what was going on."

Still, McClain said it’s a frustrating situation. 

“You can look at it as ‘Kids being kids, we’ve all been kids, we’ve all done dumb stuff.’ That doesn’t take away the responsibility and accountability of it,” McClain said.