The talk in the locker room was about cars, girls, clothes - and, according to police, the holdups some high school football players committed to pay for it all.
Six members of the Granger High football team, including two varsity starters, were being held Thursday in juvenile detention after police say they confessed to robbing 20 fastfood restaurants and other stores.
“If they didn’t have any money, they’d go do a robbery, split up the cash and go on a date,” said Sgt. Jerry Mendez. “They spent it on the things that high school kids spend money on - dates, clothes, fixing up a car.
“The only thing we know they weren’t spending it on was dope. They weren’t into drugs at all.”
The string of holdups that began in June ended Tuesday night with two more robberies and the arrests of the suspects, ages 15 to 17, on suspicion of armed robbery.
Police said they were tipped to the robbery ring by a fellow student but refused to say whether that person was on the football team.
Police confiscated a pair of pellet guns that resembled semiautomatic weapons but said actual guns also may have been used. They said the six worked in groups of two or three; one or two would go inside the store, and another student would drive the getaway car.
Usually, the robbers wore no disguises, a bravado that carried into the locker room, where teammates said they boasted of their crimes. Mendez said it was common knowledge the kids had money and “told others where they’d been getting it.”
Prosecutors said charges were not expected to be filed until next week. They said two 17-year-olds and two 16-year-olds may be tried as adults, while two 15-year-olds face juvenile charges. All have been suspended from the 1,800-student school.
Investigators on Thursday had not yet tallied the take of all of the robberies, but conservatively estimated it at more than $3,000. No shots were fired in the holdups, and no one was hurt.
Coach Ray Groth said he and the other coaches had been perplexed why the team hadn’t seemed united this season, despite being tied for first in the league with two other teams at 3-1.
“You have to wonder about this generation and whether it considers consequences,” Groth said.
He figures the students - one a senior almost assured a college football scholarship, another whose father is a police officer - tried robbery once and it worked, so they kept at it.
“I honestly think they didn’t think they’d get caught,” he said.
But when they were, they confessed immediately.
“They were kind of glad to get it over with and that’s not at all indicative of hardened criminals,” said sheriff’s Sgt. Mike Parr. He described them as basically good kids who “had this giant collective dumb attack.”
But other investigators weren’t so charitable. Mendez said five of the six have juvenile records involving crimes ranging from fleeing a police officer to vehicle burglary and possession of stolen property.
“Some people are saying that they were teaching the three R’s out there,” Mendez said. “Reading, ‘riting and robbery.”