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Man uses SUV as bumper car to damage Athens businesses

Updated: Jun 9

By Joe Johnson

An Athens man was recently arrested for using an SUV as a bumper car at an Athens business where the vehicle reportedly caused considerable damage.

Police said they learned about the incident at 7:47 a.m. Friday when they received a 911 trespassing call from the property manager of 100 Prince Ave., where Farm Burger and other businesses are located.

The manager showed officers surveillance video of a Toyota Highlander being driven down stairs and through the common area between two buildings and used to repeatedly ram a brick wall in an apparent attempt to leave, according to police.

Among those things damaged by the SUV, police said, were a sidewalk, the building itself, a brick wall and concrete that was stained by vehicle fluids.

Giovanni Ricci Merendino

An officer found the suspected driver by following a trail of transmission fluid from the incident location to 553 Pulaski St., where the damaged Highlander was parked in the driveway, police said, and the registered owners indicated that the vehicle should be in the possession of their son who lived at that address, 24-year-old Giovanni Ricci Merendino.

When questioned, Merendino tried to explain that the SUV might have been damaged earlier that night at a convenience store where he and his roommate bought beer after work, according to police, but he later said he did not know how the damage occurred.

“Based on Giovanni’s statements as well as the video of the incident, I arrested Giovanni for criminal trespass to property," the officer wrote in his report. “After being arrested Giovanni made the statement that he ‘thought it was a dream’ and asked if we had it on camera.”

An additional charge of driving on a suspended license was added to the list of the man’s offenses, police said.

Merendino was released from the county jail Friday afternoon, upon posting a $7,350 bond.

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