DAVENPORT – Following two business robberies last week that both involved suspects using semi-automatic handguns, the Polk County Sheriff’s Office is reminding the public that there’s a tip line available for anyone who wants to report a convicted felon who is illegally in possession of a weapon.
“I think people may have forgotten about that program,” said Carrie S. Eleazer, the public information officer for the Polk County Sheriff’s Office. “We want to remind people that the program exists and get the word out about it.”
The sheriff’s office is also asking for the public’s help in finding the men responsible for robbing a Dollar General Store in Lake Alfred and a liquor store in Davenport. As Eleazer noted, the suspects in the two robberies – which are believed to have been unrelated – both used handguns and, most likely, own them illegally. In the Davenport robbery, the two suspect were described as being teenagers.
“Any time a robbery suspect has a weapon, it’s a concern,” Eleazer said. “It doesn’t matter how old they are – they can be in their late teens, or their 30s, it doesn’t matter. What does matter is they used a weapon.”
She noted the recent death of Lakeland Police Officer Arnulfo Crispin, 25, who was shot after responding to a call in Lakeland on Dec. 18. He died three days later.
The man accused of killing Officer Crispin, Kyle Williams, is 19 years old.
“The suspect in that shooting is a teenager,” Eleazer said, “and he had a gun.”
Federal law prohibits anyone convicted of a felony from ever possessing any firearms or ammunition. It specifically applies to anyone convicted of a crime punishable by imprisonment.
Even after they get released from prison, the felon is banned from owning a firearm either inside or outside of their home, and the federal punishment can run as high as 10 years in prison.
In December 2010, the Polk County Sheriff’s Office started a program aimed at cracking down on felons who own or use guns, through a partnership with Heartland Crimestoppers, Inc. The program rewards anonymous callers who alert law enforcement to anyone with an illegally possessed firearm. Citizens are encouraged to turn in felons with guns by reporting them to Heartland Crimestoppers at 800-226-TIPS (8477). If an arrest is made and a gun gets recovered from the information that was provided, the tipster will be eligible for a $500 reward.
All calls remain confidential and no one at the sheriff’s office will ask a caller for their name or phone number.
When the program was launched, Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd noted, “We know that guns don’t commit violent crimes, people commit violent crimes. And we know that there are plenty of folks out there who know who the bad guys are in their area. They know if they have guns or not. Give us an anonymous call, tell us who and where they are. Give us as much information as you can, and we will investigate.”
Eleazer added that when guns are used in the commission of a crime, “They’re never obtained legally. They’re probably getting it the same way, from other criminals. They live that certain lifestyle.”
Or, more likely, she added, the criminals get their guns another way.
“They steal them in home burglaries,” she said.
Polk County Sheriff’s detectives are working with Lake Alfred Police to find out who robbed a Dollar General Store in Lake Alfred around 10 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 23. Workers told detectives that a man brandishing a black semi-automatic handgun walked into the store at 725 S. Lake Shore Way, pointed the handgun at them, then demanded money. The suspect forced the employees to put the money in a bag, then he fled the store and was last seen heading north.
The robbery was captured by a video surveillance camera. The suspect is described as a black man, close to 5 feet 9 inches tall, weighing roughly 175 pounds, and wearing blue pants, a camouflage jacket, and a T-shirt that covered his face.
Anyone has information about this robbery, or who can identify the suspect, is urged to call Detective Jason Whatley at 863-298-6379.
Then on Christmas Eve, Polk County Sheriff’s detectives responded to a call about a business robbery that happened at 9:20 p.m., when two men went into a Hollywood Liquor store at 114 Polo Park Boulevard in the Polo Park shopping plaza in Davenport.
Eleazer said the first suspect held the door open while the second man went behind the counter and pointed a handgun at the clerk, demanding money from the register.
The robbery was interrupted when a second store clerk tapped the armed suspect on the shoulder and told him to get out from behind the counter. The armed suspect and the second clerk briefly struggled, then both robbers fled the store. This incident was also captured on video surveillance.
The first suspect is described as a man in his late teens, around 5 feet 10 inches tall, with a thin build, wearing a black hooded sweatshirt with white letters on the front and sleeves and a hat.
The second robber was also described as a man in his late teens, with a similar height and build, wearing a black hooded sweatshirt and a red and blue hat. Workers could not be sure of either suspects’ race.
Anyone with information on this case is being asked to call Detective Sam Bunch at 863-298-6379.
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