Sunday, January 21, 2018
Public safety

French bulldog stolen at gunpoint found in Tampa, deputies say

TOWN 'N COUNTRY — The stranger showed up Saturday morning at Gregory Sakas' home, skittish and mute but nice enough.

Sakas invited him inside, made him a pallet of beach towels, and provided meals and entertainment.

"Man, we gave him a stick, and he was running around the yard like a maniac," Sakas said. "But he was really polite."

It wasn't until after the weekend was over that Sakas learned the true identity of his overnight guest, a 25-pound French bulldog: His real name was Bueller, he had been stolen at gunpoint and his wrinkly face was all over social media and television news.

"I said, 'Man, I'm taking this dog to the police department,' " Sakas said.

Bueller belongs to a man named Derek McComber, 27, according to the Hillsborough Sheriff's Office. McComber told deputies that he was walking Bueller near Pinehurst Drive on Friday when a gray Honda Civic with two men inside pulled up along the side of the road.

A man emerged from the car and asked McComber what kind of dog Bueller was. When McComber said he was a French bulldog, the man scooped up the dog while pointing a handgun at McComber, deputies said.

The gunman jumped into the car with Bueller and drove off.

McComber created a Facebook page and a Twitter account to spread word of Bueller's disappearance.

Sakas, who lives less than a mile away from McComber, didn't see any of that.

But he had already begun trying to find Bueller's real owner, posting "found dog" signs with his phone number on stop sign poles and at local veterinary clinics.

One of his contacts, at a nearby Sunshine Animal Hospital, told him a man had come into the clinic, looking for a dog that matched the dog's description. That man, who turned out to be McComber, also talked about how the dog had been stolen at gunpoint, according to Sakas.

Sakas found the news stories online and immediately called the Sheriff's Office, which arranged a reunion with McComber.

McComber did not return phone messages Monday. But Sakas said the reunion was a joyful one.

"He was all over him, man," said Sakas, referring to Bueller. "They knew each other for sure."

Sakas said he was told he'd be hearing about a reward from Crime Stoppers.

An unemployed repairman, Sakas said he doesn't mind the money, but it wasn't why he turned in the pup. He said he had a dog he loved once, Zeke, which died a few years ago.

"We're dog people," he said.

Times staff writer Laura C. Morel contributed to this report.

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