Revisiting the Golf Cart Bandits Saga


Daniel Bartnicki

Would you have driven the golf cart?


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Last school year, a group of seven NHS students were facing five charges, including three felonies for taking a series of joyrides on a custodian’s golf cart. Although the charges were eventually dropped, each student was suspended for two days and cited for the on-campus crimes. 

During the second semester of the 2018-19 school year, this group of students decided to stop by Novato High on the weekend to see what was going on that night. One student saw the golf cart and walked up to it through the wide open gates. The cart was located in the small parking lot in front of rooms 3601 and 3602.

 “I knew that the golf cart would be at school unattended,” said former Novato High student Jake Ahlin. “It was pretty fun, I didn’t really think there would be any serious consequences.”

The group found a solution to their boredom; going to school when nobody is there to drive a golf cart around. This is something they did repeatedly over the span of two months. Each time, they would progressively push the limits of what they could do. A second golf cart, which one of the students had previously worked on in Product Design class, was also found on campus, but had no motor, battery or seats. It did have an emergency brake. One of the students took a tow strap found on campus and tied the two golf carts together. 

The plan was for the first cart to tow the other golf cart, and then the students would take turns doing E-brake drifts in the non-running golf cart.

The group would do donuts on the softball field, burnouts, jumps and take it off-roading behind the sports fields. 

One of the days, things got a little rowdy. An attempted jump ended up with the golf cart colliding with the old tennis court’s fence, which no longer exists. It was a brutal crash which inflicted loads of pain to the two students in the cart. Luckily, it was caught on video.

The damage done to the golf cart and fence post is what the students believe got them caught.

Only two students got suspended the Monday after the accident happened, but over the course of the week, all seven students that got caught and received a two day out of school suspension. Each student got charged. 

“It was fun to drive it, but I didn’t realize the consequences that would follow,” said 2019 NHS graduate Christian Ringgenberg. “I was cited with felony vandalism and grand theft auto, but the charges were dropped.”

Although each student had different charges, the citations included vandalism, breaking and entering, continued unauthorized trespassing, damage to government property and grand theft auto. Many of the students involved believed these charges were unwarranted. 

“I think the charges were absolutely excessive. I personally think the school was trying to use us for insurance money,” said senior Austin Graves. “They tried giving me vandalism and I was originally being charged with burglary. They were trying to push a lot of stuff on us that wasn’t true and trying to intimidate us into saying that we caused certain damages that were already there. They were trying to make us pay for their own issues, and I personally think that that is absolutely unnecessary to do against a bunch of teenagers.”

Students were being told by the Student Resource Officer (SRO) that they could potentially leave campus in handcuffs and in the back of a cop car. This type of threat could be considered an intimidation tactic. 

 “It scared me because there was a lot of legal action being threatened, which is pretty scary for somebody that just made a mistake. Although it’s a scary thought, I never really believed that I would be leaving the campus in the back of a cop car,” said senior Jaxton Funk.

Ahlin felt as if he was rewarded for the crimes. “I stole the golf cart and Fister rewarded me with a four-day vacation from school (a two day suspension stretched over a weekend).”