Police charge 2 in recent robbery
By CURTIS KRUEGER and CHRIS TISCH
The would-be robbers who struck a Clearwater McDonald's last week slipped away in the night.
But this crime was different from the 20 or so previous robberies and attempted robberies of fast food restaurants in the Tampa Bay area.
This time, police were watching.
On Monday, St. Petersburg police announced the arrests of two men in connection with the robbery June 16 in Clearwater, thanks to an informant's tip and the Clearwater officer who had kept the McDonald's under surveillance.
Friday, police arrested Deangelo L. Church and Norris Brown, both 28 and from St. Petersburg. Brown was being held Monday at the Pinellas County Jail on $150,000 bond on charges of armed burglary and attempted robbery. Church was being held on $100,000 bond on a charge of armed robbery.
In addition, St. Petersburg police said they were looking for another suspect, Anthony Harrington, 25, of St. Petersburg, whom they described as armed and dangerous.
Officials think the three may be linked to several of the fast-food robberies in Pinellas and Hillsborough counties during the past month, although Church and Brown currently are charged only in connection with the June 16 attempt.
With more than 20 crimes and restaurants scattered through Hillsborough, Pinellas and Pasco counties, officers said they had more work to do.
"The similarities are very strong" between the men charged in Pinellas and the descriptions of the men who committed robberies near Tampa, said Debbie Carter, a spokeswoman for the Hillsborough Sheriff's Office. Still, she said, detectives aren't sure if they're the people responsible.
St. Petersburg police Detective Steve Corbet said some of the robberies were committed by people who went to a drive-through window and demanded cash. Others involved robbers who smashed a window and broke into a restaurant, demanding money from a safe.
Diane Scott can't believe that her son, Deangelo Church, is involved. On her coffee table rests her son's diploma from Northeast High School, surrounded by pictures of him, his children and other family members. She said he ran track, lettered in football at both Northeast and St. Petersburg High and attended college in Savannah, Ga.
She said her son sat with friends on her front steps each night until the early morning. She's sure she would know if he had disappeared to commit robberies. He has not had extra cash, she said. He has no record for robberies, although he did plead no contest to battery last year.
"That boy ain't never been in trouble as far as stealing something," she said.
Something else makes her skeptical. Someone smashed into a McDonald's in Port Richey on Saturday, the day after her son was arrested.
"There have been robberies since then . . . if (my son and Brown are) sitting in jail, who's doing the robberies now?"
Police said the Clearwater McDonald's was closed at 11 p.m. June 16 when the manager and four employees heard someone crash through the glass door. A man confronted the employees and ordered them onto the ground.
The man pointed a gun at the manager and told him to open the safe, but the manager said he didn't have the combination.
"I don't want to shoot you for something stupid," the man said.
Meanwhile, Clearwater police Officer William L. Hodgson was watching from an unmarked car nearby. He saw a nervous-looking man outside the restaurant. The officer then saw a commotion in the restaurant.
Hodgson called for back-up and drove toward the restaurant, but the man outside the restaurant darted into nearby yards and got away. The man in the store also got away.
But Clearwater detectives learned that an informant had told a St. Petersburg detective that Church might have been involved in recent fast-food robberies, an affidavit said. Hodgson picked Church's photo from a lineup of photographs, the affidavit said, and police obtained a warrant for Church's arrest June 18.
St. Petersburg police found Church June 21 and arrested him on an armed robbery charge. They also arrested Brown that day, though records don't indicate how investigators tied Brown to the robbery.
-- Times staff writer Tamara Lush contributed to this report.
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