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Suspect sought in robbery try

Authorities say a man who attempted to rob a Tampa convenience store stole two cars and wound up in Pasco.

By BRADY DENNIS

© St. Petersburg Times, published January 11, 2001


DADE CITY -- Whoever the man was who tried to rob a Tampa convenience store Wednesday morning, chances are he didn't expect to end up in Pasco County after stealing two cars along the way.

Tampa Police Department spokesman Joe Durkin said police responded Wednesday morning to a robbery call at an independent convenience store in the 2100 block of Linebaugh Avenue in Tampa.

By the time they got there, the man had stolen a 1977 blue Ford F-100 truck and fled north.

Police put out a warning for the suspect, and Pasco County deputies spotted the man heading north on Interstate 75, near State Road 54.

Deputies and Florida Highway Patrol officers chased the suspect, whose side tire blew out several miles later, said Pasco County Sheriff's man Jon Powers.

Powers said the man kept driving, exited the interstate and headed west on SR 52. About a mile off the exit he lost control of the truck, ran through a fence and into a pasture on the north side of the road.

The suspect then fled on foot carrying a crowbar. He escaped deputies.

"When he bailed out, he took his crowbar with him," Powers said.

Deputies searched the area for two hours with two agricultural units, two state troopers, four deputy patrol units and a canine unit.

They had no luck and called the search off around 1 p.m.

Around 1:54 p.m., less than a mile away, deputies got a call from an employee at the Waffle House at the intersection of SR 52 and I-75.

She saw her 1984 Chevrolet Blazer as it was being stolen from the parking lot.

Thinking the same suspect had struck again, deputies put out a warning to be on the lookout for the Blazer.

Shortly thereafter, a Dade City police officer spotted the vehicle in the parking lot of Pasco High School in Dade City.

The car was abandoned, but some students saw the suspect leaving the car, Powers said.

The description matched that of the man who had robbed the convenience store.

Powers said deputies are dusting both cars for fingerprints and searching for any other clues that might help them find the suspect whose antics bridged two counties and two stolen cars.

"We feel fairly certain these are the same guy," Powers said. "Considering the circumstances, it's either the same guy or one heck of a coincidence."

-- Brady Dennis covers the city of Zephyrhills and police in east Pasco. His phone number is (352) 521-5757, ext. 23. His e-mail is dennis@sptimes.com.

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