WINTER HAVEN – It might sound like an awfully violent way to get some spare quarters, but right now the Polk County Sheriff’s Office is searching for a man who tried to break into a change machine – by firing a gun at it.
The suspect was caught on video camera aiming the gun at the change machine at a laundromat in Winter Haven. When the semi-automatic handgun proved ineffective in breaking open the machine, the suspect left. No one was injured during the assault.
But now Polk County Sheriff’s detectives are asking for the public’s help finding the man who fired the gun several times at the change machine in an unsuccessful attempt to steal money from it.
It happened around 9 p.m. on Jan. 4. The armed man was wearing a gray hoodie that covered his face as he walked into the Busy Bubbles laundromat at 3397 Cypress Gardens Road in Winter Haven. It quickly became apparent the suspect was not attempting to wash his dirty clothes.
The man, noted Carrie S. Eleazer, public information officer for the Polk County Sheriff’s Office, “walked up to the change machine, and fired a semi-automatic handgun at it in an attempt to break open the machine. After being unsuccessful, the suspect fled the scene on foot.”
The incident was discovered the next day by an employee at the laundromat.
“When the business manager saw the damage done to the machine, she reviewed the video and saw the shooting, and then contacted Polk County Sheriff’s Office,” Eleazer noted.
The suspect, seen in video surveillance, is described as a black man, 5 feet 11 inches tall, weighing 185 pounds, wearing a gray hoodie and dark baggy pants.
Anyone with information about this incident, or who can identify the suspect, is being urged to call Detective Jason Paquin at 863-287-9037. If the caller wants to remain anonymous but still provide information, they can call 1-800-226-TIPS or log onto www.heartlandcrimestoppers.com. Cash rewards are available if the suspect is apprehended.
The Polk County Sheriff’s Office is also asking for the public’s help in solving two separate retail theft investigations that happened around the holidays, both times at the Best Buy electronics store at Posner Park in Davenport, the shopping plaza off the exit for Interstate 4. The two cases are not believed to be connected.
The first incident occurred at 2 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 30, when a man wearing a camouflage sweater entered the store with two boxes, then approached the Loss Prevention counter. While he was there, the man obtained two store decals as if he were returning items.
The suspect then exited the store with the boxes and stickers, but later came back inside the store, accompanied by another man who was wearing a red shirt.
That second man in the red shirt proceeded to pick up two Bose surround-sound stereo systems from the store shelves.
“The suspect in the red shirt did not go to a check out, but instead approached the Loss Prevention counter with the stereo system boxes,” Eleazer noted. “The boxes had been marked with the store decals the first suspect had obtained moments earlier.” When store employees refused to process the claim, the suspects ran out of the store and fled the shopping plaza in a green, older model large van.
The second attempted theft happened a few days later, at 5:45 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 4, when a woman walked into the store and purchased two Xbox 360 game consoles. Video cameras captured what happened next, Eleazer said.
“The female entered the parking lot and gave an unknown white male the receipt for her purchase,” Eleazer noted. “The white male then entered the store and picked up two more Xbox 360 game consoles.” When store workers tried to stop the man from going any further, “He dropped the items and fled the store,” Eleazer noted. “He fled in a white Dodge Challenger with black rims — which appeared to be waiting on him.”
Anyone with information about these two unrelated crimes is urged to call Detective Heather Marin at 863-298-6200.
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