PLANT CITY — A man linked to multiple violent crimes in the Plant City area was arrested Thursday after leading deputies on a five-hour, multi-county chase.
Jose Alberto Esparza, 39, was booked into the Hillsborough County Jail without bail on 14 charges listed on 9 outstanding warrants, some from Polk and Manatee counties.
Two of those charges came after Thursday's chase: grand theft auto and fleeing to elude a law enforcement officer. Others include home invasion robbery with a firearm, aggravated assault, burglary of an unoccupied dwelling, grand theft, possession of a controlled substance, carrying a concealed firearm and a firearm with an altered serial number.
Detectives with the sheriff's office and the U.S. Marshals' Florida Regional Fugitive Task Force issued a Crime Stoppers release last week in hopes of finding Esparza, who is suspected in a March armed home invasion and robbery on Northview Road and an aggravated assault at the Plant City Farmer's Market earlier this month.
About 7 a.m. Thursday, detectives began trailing Esparza after spotting him in a stolen GMC pickup truck near the intersection of West Hillsborough Avenue and Turkey Creek Road in Plant City, according to the sheriff's office. When he realized he was being followed, Esparza tried to outmaneuver the detectives. Multiple backup units, including HCSO's aviation and K9 units, were called in to aid the pursuit.
Esparza drove through Plant City, eastern Hillsborough County and into Polk County before parking the truck on Mud Lake Road in Plant City, just west of Charlie Griffith Road, and fleeing on foot through a nearby neighborhood.
Responding deputies followed suit, and after a brief chase apprehended Esparza without incident.