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Fleeing shoplifter abandoned kids at Westfield Brandon mall, deputies say

BRANDON — He charged through the parking lot at Westfield Brandon mall Saturday pushing a shopping cart with two children and stolen merchandise inside, deputies said.

Jeffrey Brooks, 22, of Thonotosassa tried to outrun the Sears loss prevention officers but the cart overturned — dumping a 2-year-old girl on the ground and leaving scratches on her back. An 8-month-old in a car carrier was uninjured in the fall.

Brooks kept running, leaving his children behind, according to the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office.

Minutes earlier, store security spotted him taking a Barbie doll and slipping an $80 MP3 player under the infant's car carrier before he walked out the door, according to reports. Loss prevention officers confronted him in the parking lot and gave chase. They caught him shortly after the cart tipped over.

Deputies said his girlfriend, 21-year-old Heather Wallace, was inside the store shoplifting baby items as Brooks was being arrested. She found out what happened and tried to exit the store with the stolen items in the opposite direction, but was caught, deputies said.

Brooks, of 11621 Round Table Way in Thonotosassa, was charged with felony petty theft, two counts of child neglect, resisting a merchant, resisting an officer without violence and violation of probation for a previous grand theft conviction. Wallace, who shares an address with Brooks, was charged with petty theft and two counts of child neglect.

Brooks has now been on both sides of the law — as suspect and victim — over the past two weeks. On Oct. 14, Brooks was shot by an acquaintance after visiting his house in Seffner. Deputies said the shooting came after an argument. No other details have been released about the shooting.

Fleeing shoplifter abandoned kids at Westfield Brandon mall, deputies say 10/23/10 [Last modified: Saturday, October 23, 2010 10:23pm]
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