The suspects robbed two salesman at gunpoint, the sheriff’s office said, before fleeing the scene.
The two men should be considered armed and very dangerous, Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd warned, as he also cautioned that the youthful ages of the two men did not mean they were not capable of violence.
“This brazen armed robbery follows two other recent violent crimes committed by juveniles,” he said. “These aren’t just mischievous children who got into trouble for minor infractions — these are young criminals who consciously made a choice to victimize someone.”
The case dates back to Wednesday, Dec. 5, when two traveling salesmen who work for Gulf Stream Audio and Theater Concepts in Tampa were targeted for this brazen robbery.
The salesmen had agreed to meet with two men at the Marathon gas station in Bartow, noted Carrie Eleazer, public information officer for the Polk County Sheriff’s Office, in her report on this case. The two suspects, Eleazer added, had asked the salesmen to travel to Gordonville Park, so they could meet to discuss purchasing home theater systems from them.
The two salesmen drove to Gordonville Park, which is in the Gordon Heights area, and met with Jeremy Hazelton, 17, and Sharis Purdue, also 17.
But there was no honest sale to be made, Eleazer said.
“Hazelton and Purdue robbed the two salesmen at gunpoint,” Eleazer noted, adding that as they pointed the gun at the victims, two other suspects later identified as Brandon Pitts, 25, and James Edward Walker, 20, got into the victims’ company van and used it to flee the scene.
They took with them all of the equipment the two men had been selling.
After the victims reported the crime to the sheriff’s office, detectives were able to track down Hazelton and Purdue, who were arrested and charged with armed robbery. The stolen van was recovered in the Gordonville area, but the home theater equipment that had been inside it is still missing. Those items include seven JVR home theater systems, eight Bach n Odin projectors, and eight screens.
Pitts and Walker are still at large, and both have warrants for their arrests for armed robbery and armed carjacking.
Despite their ages, both suspects have already spent time in the Polk County Jail.
“These juveniles and young adults already have criminal histories and it’s clear they aren’t changing their ways,” Judd said.
In a separate case, the Polk Count Sheriff’s Office needs the public’s help in solving another theft investigation — this one with a sad holiday twist.
The City of Frostproof had set up a nativity scene in a field on the corner of B Street West and Scenic Highway, which apparently proved a little too tempting for thieves. Sometime between Saturday, Dec. 1 and Monday, Dec. 3, the baby Jesus and a plywood donkey were removed from the scene.
“They were last seen around 6 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 1,” Eleazer said. “The baby Jesus is a plastic doll and the donkey is painted realistically. The city would like the stolen items returned to the Frostproof City Hall at 111 1st St. W.”
Anyone who has information on either case, and wants to remain anonymous, can call 1-800-226-TIPS or visit www.heartlandcrimestoppers.com to report tips to law enforcement. iPhone and Droid users can download a free tip submit app to anonymously report crime. To install these free apps, visit Tip Soft.
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