Illegal Motion Doesn't Begin To Describe This

IT WAS SUPPOSED TO BE JUST ANOTHER stakeout. A witness to a stick-up at a fast-food joint had copied down the license plate of the getaway truck last Tuesday and the police had quickly traced it to a home in West Valley, Utah. When they first drove up, the officers were disappointed because the first thing they saw was a Salt Lake City police car parked outside. Had they been beaten to the collar by a neighboring department? 'They waited awhile, then went to look for their suspect. What they found was very upsetting, for not only were they arresting a clean-cut 16-year-old boy, but he was also the son of a cop, The police car was his dad's.

That was only the first shock that reverberated all week through West Valley City, a blue-collar suburb of 100,000 that sits just south of Salt Lake City. Over the course of the week, the first arrest led to a dozen more. Most of the suspects were members of the Granger High School football team who had, police said, since June held up 22 fast-food restaurants and small retail stores. They were brazen-police said they didn't even bother with masks. They were bold-one or more allegedly carried a pistol to each crime. And they were braggarts-as the robbery spree continues the boys apparently told their friends. Just about everyone on the football team seemed to know what was going on except for head coach Roy Groth. "When you look back," Groth says sadly, "you wonder why they were so preoccupied. Now we know."

As so often happens in eases where good boys seem to go bad, there was a gust of surprise from the people who thought they knew them. "They were good young men," says Bill Dugan, who coached several of the boys in a neighborhood football league when they were younger. "They were cordial, they obeyed you. I'm really surprised," He paused. "I have a question in my mind: was it a challenge for them?"

Maybe, says Salt Lake County sheriff, Sgt. Jim Potter. But mostly "it was greed, pure greed." According to authorities, the boys spent their loot on clothes, food and gifts for girlfriends. It sounds like kid's stuff but it wasn't child's play. "They terrorized innocent victims and made people fear for their lives," says assistant chief Terry Keefe of the West Valley Police Department. "Others might know them as wonderful human beings, but it appears that they have a dark side."

The authorities had been building their case since receiving a tip about a month ago. At one point they used the football-team photo to create a photographic lineup and victims picked some of them out of the crowd, The boys allegedly pulled their jobs in small groups, often seemingly operating on a sudden impulse. "They'd say 'it's pay-day' and go out and do it," says Sgt. Gerry Christensen of the Murray police. Under Utah law, the suspects who are 16 years and older can be treated as adults and some may face jail time if convicted. None of the boys has entered a plea, but many have made incriminating statements, police say.

Besides the surprise, the arrests revealed some lingering class tensions in the area. According to Dugan, the boys, half of whom were white, the rest black or Pacific Islanders, tended to come from the poorer side of town. Dugan's wife, Linda, said the arrests will just confirm the view that "nothing good ever comes out of Granger High School."

Until the arrests, though, the school did have bragging rights on the football field. The Granger Lancers started the week tied for first place in their division. But on Thursday night, with several key members of the team locked up, the Lancers lost 28 to 25.