TAMPA — For nearly two years, he eluded law enforcement: the hooded man responsible for more than 15 armed robberies and known to authorities as the "Seffner Bandit."
He wore a black sweatshirt with gloves and threatened convenient store clerks with semi-automatic weapons. He left faceless image after faceless image on store surveillance cameras, and always got away.
Until, authorities said, he crashed his car into a pole and got caught Tuesday night.
No longer able to shield his identity, Andre King, 32, hid his face behind crumpled-up paper towels as he was about to be booked Wednesday at the Orient Road Jail. Charged with eight counts of armed robbery, King is a suspect in at least 21 more robberies dating to January 2010, Hillsborough County sheriff's deputies said.
Deputies apprehended King after he attempted to rob a store about 8:15 p.m Tuesday near Paradise Drive and Clewis Avenue, deputies said. As he walked in and revealed his gun, the clerk drew his own and the suspect bolted.
A chase ended with King smashing his car into a pole on Lakewood Drive near State Road 60. He was treated for minor injuries at Tampa General Hospital, including a head laceration, and taken in for questioning. He was later identified as the Seffner Bandit, deputies said.
"King cooperated and provided details pertaining to some of those robberies," said Maj. Donna Lusczynski, an investigator on the case.
Lusczynski said King told deputies he was trying to support his family. Deputies do not yet know whether he has children. He lives in Seffner, at 1348 Dab Drive. He used the home as a safe house and worked various odd jobs in the area, deputies said. No persons were seriously injured during any of the suspected robberies, but all the crimes were considered violent.
"He eluded us to this point and to see it come to this conclusion is a good thing," Lusczynski said.
Once inside the jail, King uncovered his face and hung his head.
Sarah Whitman can be reached at email@example.com.