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“You destroyed lives:” Family of victims in Festival Foods crash can’t understand why 17-year-old was out on bond

Isaiah Degroot

RACINE COUNTY -- 17-year-old Isaiah Degroot of Racine was officially charged on Tuesday, Jan. 16 with 27 felonies after prosecutors say he plowed a stolen SUV into two pedestrians as they walked out of Festival Foods in Mount Pleasant Sunday, Jan. 14 -- severely injuring them. He could face life in prison after prosecutors say he admitted he was behind the wheel of the stolen SUV with a handgun and drugs inside. He shouldn't have been driving in the first place, because investigators say he's never had a valid license -- one of the things about this case that has frustrated the victims' family.

Degroot faces the following criminal charges:

  • Operating a motor vehicle without owner's consent
  • Felony bail jumping (18 counts)
  • Hit and run - great bodily harm (two counts)
  • First degree reckless injury (two counts)
  • Possession with intent to deliver or manufacture THC
  • Receiving stolen firearm
  • Knowingly operate motor vehicle without a valid license - cause great bodily harm (two counts)

Cheryl Coopman and Jeffery Coopman

In court on Tuesday, Degroot's attorney asked for leniency regarding bail.

"I would consider asking the court to put him on house arrest.  Technically he is a minor," the attorney said.

Cheryl Coopman, 47 and Jeffery Coopman, 53 were severely injured in this incident. Sandra Coopman-Roberts, Jeffery's sister, said Tuesday they're lucky to be alive.

"It was just a horrific scene. She lost her leg and her hand. She has some bleeding on the brain. He has some internal injuries -- a broken hip, his leg. He's going to need a lot more surgery. They are in critical condition so you are praying for the best," Coopman-Roberts said.

According to the criminal complaint filed against Degroot, a Racine County sheriff's deputy identified an SUV on Sunday afternoon as having license plates that did not match the vehicle they were on. The deputy turned and followed the vehicle -- and "activated the lights and sirens on her unmarked squad and attempted to execute a traffic stop."

Hit and run crash in Mount Pleasant

Cheryl Coopman and Jeffery Coopman

The complaint indicates Degroot sped up "before abruptly turning left into the parking lot of Kohl's Department Store." The deputy terminated the attempted traffic stop -- as there were a lot of people in the parking lot. But moments later, the complaint says Degroot "lost control of the vehicle and crashed -- striking two pedestrians." The deputy immediately stopped and began rendering aid to the injured man and woman.

Racine County Sheriff Christopher Schmaling noted Monday that the deputy was more concerned with saving the lives of those injured than chasing the suspect immediately. The  deputy applied the tourniquet after recognizing the victims were near death. A Festival Foods employee came out and took off his belt for his pants to help apply a second tourniquet to another area of the victim's body. Schamling thanked both for saving lives.

Witnesses to the crash as well as surveillance video showed Degroot ran from the crash scene. The criminal complaint indicates he was "located in the weeds" not far away from the scene. The complaint says "he spontaneously admitted to (deputies) that he was the driver" of the SUV.

Hit and run crash in Mount Pleasant

When investigators searched the SUV Degroot had been driving, they learned it was stolen out of Milwaukee County. Inside the SUV they found a red handbag "that contained a substance that later tested positive for the presence of THC."

Records from the Wisconsin Department of Transportation show Degroot "has never had a driver's license issued to him."

Additionally -- investigators said Degroot was arrested in November for violent felonies including firing shots from a vehicle. He was out on bond at the time of the crash at Festival Foods. In that November case, he's charged with two counts of first degree recklessly endangering safety as party to a crime, one count of possession with intent to deliver THC, less than 200 grams, possession of a dangerous weapon by a person under the age of 18, discharging a firearm from a vehicle and carrying a concealed weapon.

"I'm just sad that the system has failed once again. He should not have been out of jail. You destroyed lives," Coopman-Roberts said. "Right now I want to put him out of my mind. and pray for my brother and his wife."

FOX6 News learned the victims in this case just lost their only daughter a few months ago, and they were caring for their 3-year-old granddaughter after her death. A GoFundMe.com account has been set up to raise money for their medical expenses. CLICK HERE if you'd like to make a donation.

Degroot made his initial appearance in court in the latest case filed against him on Tuesday afternoon. Cash bond was set at $300,000 and a preliminary hearing was set for Jan. 24.