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Bagged at Brandon mall

Three suspects were arrested at Westfield Brandon on Monday. One was hiding amid Dillard’s luggage.

Skip O’Rourke/tbt*

Three suspects were arrested at Westfield Brandon on Monday. One was hiding amid Dillard’s luggage.

A chase that began in Manatee County ended inside the Westfield Brandon shopping mall Monday after three burglary suspects headed north to Hillsborough County, authorities said.

The pursuit began about noon, when Manatee sheriff's deputies got a call about a burglary in progress in Palmetto. A deputy arrived to find at least two people leaving a house. When the deputy tried to talk to them, they fled in a 2014 Hyundai that had been stolen in Hillsborough County, the Manatee County Sheriff's Office said.

Manatee deputies then began chasing the vehicle east on Interstate 275, then north on Interstate 75, with the Hyundai briefly reaching speeds of up to 125 mph. As it headed north, Hillsborough deputies and Florida Highway Patrol troopers were alerted and helped in the pursuit.

The driver of the Hyundai tried to leave the interstate at State Road 60, but skidded off the road, authorities said. The three men then got out and ran into the mall through Dillard's department store, prompting deputies and store security to put Dillard's on a lockdown.

Sheriff's deputies searched the store for about two hours while shoppers and Dillard's employees waited outside. The rest of the mall remained largely unaffected.

During the search, witnesses told deputies the men may have changed clothes while inside the department store. Deputies reviewed surveillance camera footage, which helped them find and arrest two of the men, according to sheriff's Col. Greg Brown. The third man was found at about 2 p.m. hiding amid luggage inside Dillard's, authorities said.

Arrested were Darrell Matthew, 21, Jaquavius Francis, 18, and Patrick Hooker, 21. Manatee sheriff's officials, who did not disclose where the three suspects live, said late Monday they would face charges that include armed burglary and grand theft auto. Taken in the burglary were two flat-screen televisions, computer equipment and two guns, deputies say.

Some shoppers arriving Monday found Dillard's closed and about 15 law enforcement cars crowded outside the store's doors. Many paused, then walked away.

Others stayed and took pictures on their phones. As deputies put one of the young men in the back of a sheriff's vehicle, one onlooker commented that the man's mother was going to be very upset.

No one was hurt, and Dillard's reopened by mid afternoon.

Bagged at Brandon mall 03/03/14 [Last modified: Monday, March 3, 2014 10:11pm]
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