Updated 12/20/11 – 8:38 p.m.
DES PLAINES, Ill. (CBS) — Police in northwest suburban Des Plaines have charged a 19-year-old man in two incidents in which stolen cars were abandoned on railroad tracks and then struck by Metra North Central Line trains.
Kenneth Cooper, of the 8900 block of North Washington Street in Niles, has been charged with two counts of possession of a stolen motor vehicle.
Des Plaines police said Cooper was arrested on Dec. 7 in a stolen car. Detectives said a stolen GPS that Cooper had with him was traced back to a stolen vehicle that had been destroyed by a Metra train.
Police said Cooper later implicated himself in two incidents in which stolen cars were left on the Metra North Central Line tracks and then destroyed by Metra trains.
Deputy Police Chief Mike Kozak said Cooper confessed to leaving the cars on the Metra tracks.
Asked if Cooper said why he did it, Kozak said, “He’s a thrill-seeker.”
Both incidents happened in the early morning hours. Each time, train No. 100 hit an abandoned car lying on the tracks at the Seegers Road crossing, and was delayed in its arrival in Chicago from Antioch at 6:55 a.m.
In the incident on Nov. 29, the wrecked car became stuck to the front of the train and had to be pried off. The train was delayed significantly as a result.
In the second incident on Dec. 5, the train pushed the car out of the way and was only held up for a short time.
Metra spokeswoman Judy Pardonnet said Cooper’s thrill seeking could have injured or even killed passengers on the Metra trains that struck the stolen cars.
Seeing the abandoned cars on the tracks also likely rattled the trains’ engineers.
“It’s very nerve-wracking to the crews. You know, the engineers are behind the controls. They can see cars ahead of time and their greatest concern, obviously, is that somebody’s in them,” Pardonnet said.
She also said the case won’t end with prosecuting Cooper for stealing the cars.
“What we’re going to do is reach out to the State’s Attorney’s office and make sure that charges can be considered that would include putting the life and safety of our passengers and our crew in danger as well as the equipment having possible damage,” Pardonnet said.
Cooper was due to appear in court for a preliminary hearing on Dec. 27, at the Skokie Courthouse, according to police.