LAND O'LAKES — Pasco deputies have two young men in custody and are looking for two more in connection to the armed robbery of a convenience store and a carjacking late Thursday.
The four are suspected of robbing several convenience stores — mostly 7-Elevens — throughout the Tampa Bay area in recent weeks, according to Doug Tobin, spokesman for the Pasco County Sheriff's Office.
Antoine Markiest Harris and Arquives Deon McNeal, both 19 and from Tampa, were booked Friday at the Land O'Lakes jail on charges of armed robbery and armed carjacking.
Deputies continue to search for two accomplices.
About 11 p.m. Thursday, deputies said, two men carrying handguns entered the Mobil convenience store and Dunkin' Donuts at 16055 State Road 52, just east of the Suncoast Parkway, with their faces covered.
The men pointed a gun at the 37-year-old clerk's head and dragged him around the store, said Sheriff Bob White. They also robbed a customer. No one was injured.
At the same time, deputies said, two unmasked men stole a Honda Element in the parking lot at gunpoint. One of the assailants pointed a gun directly at the 57-year-old driver's head, Tobin said. The man was not injured.
Deputy Michael Navarra was parked in a vacant lot next to the convenience store, doing paperwork, when he noticed something unusual was happening and drove over, White said.
Navarra saw the two men from the convenience store take off in a silver vehicle and chased after them, heading east on SR 52 toward U.S. 41.
As they drove, the Honda Element drove up from behind and then passed the patrol car and wedged in behind the silver car.
Going about 80 mph, the chase approached the intersection at U.S. 41. The silver car turned right and headed south on U.S. 41. The Element didn't make the turn and crashed into a ditch in front of the Hess gas station at the southeast corner of U.S. 41 and SR 52.
The men in the Element ran away from the crash with the deputy on their heels, Tobin said. The two ran into the woods and went through a retention pond.
Two police dog units arrived, and one deputy and his dog found Harris and McNeal. Tobin said one of the suspects suffered a minor dog bite.
White said both men had "extensive" criminal histories.
"We are pursuing the other two suspects with great vigor," he said.
Deputies believe the robbery might be related to several other recent armed robberies in Tampa Bay. White said the number of people involved and the robbery method — two men inside, two men outside — gives them reason to think these men could be connected to a May 26 robbery of a 7-Eleven in New Port Richey, among others.
Harris was charged Friday with armed robbery for that May 26 holdup.
Though he and McNeal are still teens, born just six days apart, both are felons who have served time in prison. Harris served two stints — nine months for grand theft auto and fleeing to elude law enforcement and 11 months for fleeing authorities a second time.
He was released from prison May 8.
McNeal spent one year and four months incarcerated for shooting or throwing a missile into a building or vehicle. He was released in January 2009 and is on felony probation.
Tobin said citizens should not approach the two fugitives.
"They are armed and extremely dangerous," Tobin said.
Tobin said the robbers' "patterns are getting more and more violent."
"They're more bold, more brazen and we need to get them off the streets," Tobin said.
He said anyone with information should call the Pasco County Sheriff's Office at (727) 844-7711.