EDWARDSBURG – More than two dozen teenagers from St. Joseph County could face criminal charges for underage drinking in Cass County after police busted an underage drinking party at Eagle Lake Yacht Club over the weekend.
Police say the 30 kids they caught admitted they stole the alcohol from their parents. Officers estimate another 20 or 30 teens got away.
The club is supposed to be a place where members relax, enjoy the water and perhaps sip a cool beverage. But Friday night, Cass County 911 dispatchers received a call from someone living near the club who said there was a parking problem on 8th Street on Eagle Lake.
A short time later, officers discovered those cars belonged to teenagers. Police say one of those teens stole a key from his parents, broke into the club house illegally and covered the windows so light couldn’t be seen from the outside.
“I only had three officers [on duty] at the time so they did the best they could trying to gather them up, but they just said the kids scattered when they found out the police were there,” said Ontwa Township – Edwardsburg Police Chief Kenneth Wray.
One of the teens drove through a fence to get away, Wray said.
Of the 30 arrested, most of the kids are from Granger, South Bend and Mishawaka – in St. Joseph County. Now, Cass County Prosecutor Victor Fitz will decide whether to file criminal charges.
He could not comment on this specific case because he does not yet have the police reports for the incidents, but he did speak generally about the case.
“If there is criminal activity, criminal charges are likely,” said Fitz.
Michigan state law says a minor in possession of alcohol is a misdemeanor. Punishment for the first offense can include a $100 fine and community service. The second offense can lead to a $200 fine, 30 days in jail and a suspended driver’s license for 90 days.
“When you also have components of breaking and entering or damage to property, that raises the stakes considerably,” Fitz said of the teen accused of breaking into the club house and the teen who allegedly crashed through the fence.
They could face anywhere from a 90 day misdemeanor to felony charges and up to 10 years in jail, he added.
Some of the teens also admitted to officers they'd posted information about the time and location of the party to Facebook. Fitz told WSBT information like that can be used against suspects in court.
Many of the teens’ addresses are in the Penn-Harris-Madison school district, but that doesn't necessarily mean they go to school there. P-H-M spokeswoman Teresa Carroll told WSBT they are investigating the incident and have requested a copy of the police report, but names of any minors would likely be redacted. If athletes or students involved in extra-curricular activities were involved in the incident and the school finds out about it, they could face punishment from the school, Carroll added.