Tuesday, May 22, 2018
Public safety

Duo charged with robbing Sun City Center store before I-75 chase

TAMPA — A north Tampa man and a Pasco County woman face charges of robbing a RadioShack in Sun City Center and leading authorities Wednesday on a chase along Interstate 75 that ended with two deputies opening fire on their vehicle.

Jovanny Pena, 30, walked into the store at 3842 Sun City Blvd. wearing a ski mask and carrying a gun, deputies said. Bryna McLaughlin, 30, sat in the front seat of a 2014 Jeep Liberty outside the store, they said.

Inside, Pena forced everyone to give him their valuables and left the store with 90 cellphones worth about $56,000. He rejoined McLaughlin and drove away, according to reports.

Deputies located the Jeep, but Pena refused to stop and a chase ensued on northbound I-75.

Three patrol cars cornered Pena and McLaughlin under the Progress Boulevard overpass near U.S. 301.

Pena drove toward the roadblock, rammed through the vehicles and knocked over Deputy Richard Johnson, injuring his shoulder, according to sheriff's officials. Fearful that Pena was trying to run over Johnson, Deputy Buddy Leisch fired his gun at him, according to authorities.

Pena continued plowing forward, clipping Deputy Domingo Gonzalez's leg as he dove for cover. Gonzalez then fired at Pena, the Sheriff's Office said.

Pena tried to escape, heading south in the northbound lanes of I-75. He hit two other vehicles and wrecked the Jeep. The other drivers were not hurt.

Deputies caught Pena and McLaughlin and took Pena to Tampa General Hospital for treatment of a gunshot wound to his upper body. He was described as being stable.

Pena of north Tampa faces charges including attempted murder of a law enforcement officer, aggravated battery on a law enforcement officer, armed robbery of a business, armed robbery, armed kidnapping and three charges of false imprisonment.

Pena is already on felony probation until April 2017 for a 2008 grand theft case, records show. He also served time in prison in 2004 for forgery, vehicle theft and dealing in stolen property.

McLaughlin of Land O'Lakes was not hurt. The charges against her include armed robbery of a business, armed kidnapping, and three counts each of armed robbery and false imprisonment.

McLaughlin's arrest history includes marijuana distribution in 2004 and a 2007 drug paraphernalia case, according to records.

Times researcher John Martin contributed to this report.

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