Sunday, February 25, 2018
Public safety

Police accuse Tampa man of being serial burglar

TAMPA — The thief eluded police for months, but home surveillance videos eventually gave him away.

On Thursday, Tampa police knocked on Duane Armstrong's door.

Inside the Sulphur Springs house, they found flatscreen televisions, class rings, iPads, watches and money from Aruba, Nigeria and Vietnam.

Authorities call 34-year-old Armstrong a serial burglar. They seized the spoils and charged him in connection with three burglaries. They suspect him in several more.

So on Friday, they hauled out the items for reporters' cameras, hoping the rightful owners recognize their belongings and call police. That might help detectives connect Armstrong to additional burglaries, said Tampa police Lt. Mary O'Connor.

"There's no telling how many victims are out there," she said.

Armstrong, who is being held without bail, has a lengthy criminal record.

He's been convicted of possessing a gun as a minor, robbery with a deadly weapon, drug charges and battery, according to state records.

He spent nearly two years in prison, starting in 1996, then another three years in prison, starting in 2006.

Just one month after being released in 2009, authorities say, he burglarized an occupied Miami home. A woman, home at the time, fled and called police. They shot Armstrong during a confrontation at the scene after, they say, he made a move for his waistband.

That apparently didn't dissuade him from burglarizing homes, police say.

Police believe Armstrong works alone. Surveillance videos show him pulling up to homes in a Nissan Altima with flashy rims. Sometimes he knocks, sometimes he doesn't. He often breaks a window to enter, O'Connor said.

It doesn't seem he's trying to scare or threaten residents. Police suspect him of breaking into two homes where elderly residents were sleeping. When his entrance awoke the residents, Armstrong escaped without taking anything, O'Connor said.

Police say they've tied him to three burglaries through fingerprints and serial numbers on a stolen Xbox and gun.

One happened Tuesday at 1718 W Grace St., where, police say, he entered through a window and took money.

Armstrong's fingerprints also were found on the scene of a burglary April 12 at 2120 W Skagway Ave. They also say he committed a burglary at 11206 N 51st St. in October 2011.

When police pulled up to his house Thursday, they found the charcoal gray Altima from the surveillance videos. It was registered in his wife's name. Police seized that, too.

Times news researcher John Martin and staff writer Danny Valentine contributed to this report. Jessica Vander Velde can be reached at [email protected]mpabay.com or (813) 226-3433.

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