Looters have reportedly been breaking into empty homes and businesses around Florida despite stern warnings from authorities. Some have been caught on camera.
ABC News caught footage of a group looting a shoe store in Fort Lauderdale on Sunday. The footage shows looters leaving Simon’s Sportswear with boxes of shoes. The perpetrators went on to rob a nearby pawn shop, sources say.
The suspects, six adults and three teens, were arrested by Fort Lauderdale Police hours later. The adults were identified as Rossano Henry Jr., Tyrell Pratt, Teonhki Robinson, Kenneth Pinkney, Michael Brown, and Zara Dumornay. All the suspects are charged with burglary during a natural disaster.
“Going to prison over a pair of sneakers is a fairly bad life choice,” Fort Lauderdale Police Chief Rick Maglione told the press. “Stay home and look after your loved [ones] and be thankful they are all safe.”
Other looters were arrested even before Hurricane Irma made landfall. In Polk County, news sources reported the arrest of two teens, Marvell Parkinson and a minor whose name was not disclosed, for burglarizing an empty home.
Polk County Sheriff’s Office is reportedly hoping to make an example out of Parkinson, 18, and his partner in crime. The duo are being charged with grand theft, resisting arrest without violence, burglary of an unoccupied dwelling during a state of emergency, and other charges.
The minor told police they searched the area for a home that wasn’t boarded up, broke into the home’s garage and tried to steal a 2001 Dodge Intrepid, but the battery was dead. Polk County Sheriff Gardy Judd released the following statement to the press:
“We want everyone to be safe during the hurricane. And we will not tolerate thieves taking advantage of those evacuating their homes. Looters need to be prepared to go to jail if they try to take advantage of people during a state of emergency.”
In St. Lucie County, a deputy patrolling the shuttered businesses and homes along North U.S. 1 on Saturday morning reportedly caught a man attempting to break into Atlantic Hardscapes. Police confirmed that the suspect, identified as 30-year-old Keith Adams, burglarized the store.
“I have said over and over that we will not tolerate looting or price gouging,” St. Lucie County Sheriff Ken J. Mascara said following Adams’ arrest. “We have deputies actively patrolling the county, including our beach communities, to ensure the safety and security of your homes and businesses. If you think you are going to take advantage of these evacuated properties, be prepared to spend the storm at the county jail.”
In West Palm Beach, ex-firefighter Kenneth Gray was arrested days before Hurricane Irma reached Florida for allegedly stealing equipment from a city ambulance. Gray, 34, faces two counts of burglary and larceny from an emergency vehicle. He is being held in Palm Beach County Jail in lieu of $20,000 bond.
According to the arrest report, authorities were notified after it was discovered that an electrical saw valued at $450 was missing from an emergency vehicle. A search of pawn shops in the area revealed that the saw, marked with “West Palm Beach Fire Dept” and “WPBFD,” had been pawned by Gray’s wife for $30.
Surveillance footage from the pawn shop reportedly shows Gray waiting for his wife as she completed the transaction. When questioned by police, Gray admitted to stealing the equipment, the report said. He told investigations that his wife was not aware that the saw was stolen.