BARTOW – While social media sites like Facebook have enabled businesses to find new clients, artists to introduce their work to a larger audience, and charitable organizations to raise money, experts have long warned people, particularly teens, to be careful about what they post.
That turned out to be smart advice that Aaron Atkinson, 16, of Bartow, should have followed. On March 10, the Bartow teen was arrested by the Polk County Sheriff’s Office and charged with armed burglary, possession of a weapon by a convicted felon, and grand theft of a firearm.
His arrest was directly linked to a photo that Atkinson posted on Facebook showing himself holding a gun – the same firearm that the sheriff’s office was searching for after it had been reported stolen from the victim’s car when it was parked in her driveway.
The sheriff’s office noted that after Atkinson posted the photo of the stolen gun on Facebook, one of his friends commented that he was “doing too much on Facebook” and the “polk sheriff” would be on his tail.
Atkinson replied, “[expletive] ’em”.
In her report on the arrest, Carrie Horstman, the public information officer for the Polk County Sheriff’s Office, noted that detectives say that on the evening of March 9, Atkinson approached a 2016 Nissan Rogue parked in a driveway in Lakeland. He was there with another teen, later identified by the sheriff’s office as Raven Scott, 16, who stayed nearby on his bicycle.
Atkinson stole items from the car while Scott assisted in the burglary as a lookout person, Horstman noted.
“Atkinson stole a Thompson .45 caliber semi-automatic firearm valued at $400 from within the center console of the vehicle,” Horstman noted in her report.
Also stolen was a brown leather Dooney & Burke purse valued at $350. It contained the owner’s Florida driver’s license, Capital One credit card, and Wells Fargo debit card, as well as a 14kt. yellow gold wedding band valued at $200, a 14kt. yellow gold pendant with charms valued at $300, and a silver metal necklace valued at $8.
Detectives say Atkinson and Scott returned to Scott’s Lakeland home, and later that evening Atkinson called a Domino’s Pizza in Lakeland, and “attempted to purchase three large pizzas, chicken wings, and a two litter of Coke each time,” Horstman wrote. “Both times Atkinson used the victim’s Capital One card” and wanted the food delivered, but the $49.88 transaction was declined.
The next day, Atkinson tried to buy jewelry online from a shop in Pasadena, Calif., again using the victim’s Capital One card, but that $799.99 transaction was declined, the arrest report notes.
Around the same time, the credit card’s owner was notified by text of the declined transaction, and that’s when she discovered her car had been burglarized and contacted the sheriff’s office.
Detectives determined the phone number used in the Domino’s Pizza order was registered to Shane Atkinson, and that the number was connected to his Facebook profile.
“While conducting a search through Facebook for the suspect, detectives located a photograph of the suspect holding a black semi-automatic firearm, posted on his Facebook page,” Horstman noted in her report. “The victim viewed the photograph and positively identified the firearm as being the Thompson .45 caliber semi-automatic that was stolen from the center console of her vehicle. The victim stated that her father had drilled holes in the trigger guard to make the firearm unique and the firearm in the photograph had the same identifying features.”
Horstman reported that when detectives found Atkinson, he told them his name was “John Shane Johnny.”
But when detectives twice called the phone number linked to the Domino’s Pizza order, both times the phone that “John Johnny” had on him started ringing.
“When they told the suspect they were calling his cellular phone, the suspect stated ‘You tricked me,’ and advised that his name is Aaron Shane Atkinson,” Horstman wrote.
Detectives found a 14kt. gold charm, a silver metal necklace and charm, and a pack of Marlboro Special Blend cigarettes — the same brand the victim smokes – in Atkinson’s backpack, the arrest report notes. The stolen Thompson .45 caliber was found in the bottom drawer of a dresser in Scott’s bedroom.
The sheriff’s office noted that Atkinson has an extensive juvenile criminal history, and has been charged in the past with petit theft, trespassing, motor vehicle theft, contributing to the delinquency of a minor, interfering with custody of a minor, battery, burglary of an occupied conveyance, grand theft, dealing in stolen property, burglary of an unoccupied conveyance, possession of stolen credit cards, carrying a concealed weapon, possession of a weapon on school property, possession of a weapon or ammunition by convicted felon, stalking, resisting arrest without violence, burglary of a dwelling cause over $1,000 in damage, burglary of occupied dwelling, and felony criminal mischief.
Scott also has an extensive juvenile criminal record, the sheriff’s office noted, including numerous counts of burglary of unoccupied conveyance, numerous counts of burglary of an unoccupied structure, felony criminal mischief, petit theft, motor vehicle theft, grand theft, grand theft of fire extinguisher, burglary of an unoccupied dwelling and trespassing.
They were both arrested and taken to the Polk Juvenile Assessment Center in Bartow.
Michael Freeman is an Orlando journalist, playwright and author of the book “Bloody Rabbit”. Contact him at Freelineorlando@gmail.com..