Wednesday, November 22, 2017
Public safety

St. Petersburg police nab suspects in thefts of officers' equipment

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ST. PETERSBURG — Authorities have arrested a man they said broke into an unmarked police car last month and stole an officer's radio and other items.

Rashaud D. Benjamin, 19, of St. Petersburg, was booked Monday into the Pinellas County Jail on charges of grand theft and burglary.

Detectives said they linked Benjamin to a handful of crimes involving cars — two of which belonged to the Police Department — in the last few weeks.

According to an arrest affidavit, Benjamin's fingerprints were found inside a 2007 Lexus stolen March 19 from the Pinellas Point area.

But the car, recently located in the 3100 block of 28th Avenue N, wasn't empty. Inside, detectives said they found a police radio that belonged to an undercover detective whose car was broken into Saturday. There was more.

Police also found in the Lexus a second set of fingerprints they said belonged to a 19-year-old St. Petersburg man named Randy Stanley.

Police pulled Benjamin over Monday afternoon. He was driving a Honda Civic that did not belong to him, police said. Benjamin also had a cell phone charger that was taken during the break-in of the undercover vehicle days earlier.

And he had a flashlight that police said belonged to Detective Matthew Furse, whose 2007 unmarked Chevy Impala was stolen from his driveway March 25 and then dumped in Lake Maggiore.

"During the course of the interview Benjamin admitted to taking possession of the Lexus, knowing it was stolen … and made some admissions to the detective about knowledge of the police equipment inside," police spokesman Mike Puetz said. "(Benjamin) apparently made some claims that he didn't break into the police vehicles."

But Benjamin did lead officers to an abandoned house, where police recovered three ballistic vests that belonged to Furse and the undercover detective, Puetz said.

The house was not far from Stanley's home. Jail records show police arrested Stanley Tuesday morning on charges of grand theft and dealing in stolen property.

Puetz said Stanley said he bought the Lexus for $150 and claimed he bought the vests for $600.

Puetz said that at this point, detectives don't have any information that either man was specifically targeting the police vehicles but aren't "ruling out the possibility."

Anyone with information is asked to call detectives at (727) 893-7780.

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