Crime Spree Ends with Four Arrests, 14 Unlocked Vehicles Burglarized, One Stolen
WEEKI WACHEE – Yesterday was an incredibly busy day for first responders, with several fatal auto accidents, two structure fires, an injured firefighter, and dozens of minor incidents that kept deputies and firefighters hopping from scene to scene. But a major incident inside the River Run Condominium complex in was overlooked until today, when officials say four would-be vehicle burglars were captured, thanks to the watchful eyes of a vigilant couple.
According to officials, while out for an early morning walk, a man and woman whose identities have not been released, observed several juveniles checking car door handles and entering vehicles throughout the community. The couple immediately notified law enforcement, which led to the response of several deputies, K-9, and the Air Unit.
When deputies began arriving on scene, all four suspects fled on foot. Three suspects were located in a heavily wooded area near the complex. One of the suspects was bitten on the leg by K-9 during the search.
The fourth suspect remained at large until Detective Mike O’Brien observed him walking in the roadway within the complex and placed him into custody. He was later identified as 17-year-old Raphael Thomas. Detectives later learned that Thomas was wanted out of Hillsborough County for Armed Robbery. Officials say Thomas is set to be tried as an adult in that case which is why RNRF is revealing the suspect’s identity.
Through investigation, detectives learned that all four juveniles traveled to Hernando County in a vehicle that they stole in Hillsborough County. According to Officials, all four suspects intended to commit more crimes in Hernando County and then “split the proceeds amongst them” before returning home. Once they arrived at the River Run complex, they immediately stole a vehicle and drove it within the complex.
As a part of the crime spree, 14 vehicles were burglarized inside the complex. Astoundingly, all of the vehicles that were burglarized were unlocked.
In a statement Sheriff Al Nienhuis said, “Observant citizens are our best defense against crime. Whether it is a moving company van in front of the neighbors’ house while they are at work or some suspicious activity in the middle of the night, we appreciate those calls, even when the suspicions turn out to be explainable. One neighbor spending a little time on the front porch during a sleepless night instead of watching television, for example, can help protect a whole neighborhood. When citizens are observant and lock their car doors, it can go a long way toward driving crime out of Hernando County.”
All four suspects are charged with 14-counts of Burglary. Two suspects are charged with Grand Theft Auto. Two were released to the custody of a parent and two were detained by the Department of Juvenile Justice.
The case remains under investigation.
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