TARPON SPRINGS — Four teenagers were arrested Tuesday after officers set up surveillance and caught them with a stolen car, police said. The teens also are linked with car burglaries in several cities, according to police.
Around 5 a.m. Tuesday, a patrol officer saw two men walking in front of Tarpon Springs Elementary School at 555 E Pine St. When the officer made a U-turn, the men ran, police said. One was soon caught, but heavy rains made it difficult to track the other man.
Officers later found a blue Chrysler Sebring a few blocks away in a parking lot at 501 E Tarpon Ave. They called the owner of the vehicle, who lives in Pinellas Park and didn't know the car had been stolen. Inside the car, officers found a gun and a Taser that didn't belong to the car's owner.
Believing the car thief might return, officers disabled the Sebring and set up surveillance. Just before 8 a.m. Tuesday, three males got in the car and tried to drive off, police said. Officers moved in and arrested them. A nearby preschool was locked down during the incident.
Police identified two of the people arrested as Joseph Richard Lang and Michael J. Ward, both 18. A 15-year-old and a 16-year-old also were arrested but are not being identified because they are minors. All four are from St. Petersburg.
During interviews with police, the teens admitted they stole the car and committed several vehicle burglaries in St. Petersburg, Pinellas Park and Tarpon Springs, police said. They each face charges of grand theft auto. Lang and the 16-year-old also face loitering and prowling charges. Officers were also looking Tuesday for a pink book bag containing stolen items that one of the teens dropped. Anyone with information regarding the book bag is asked to call Tarpon Springs police at (727) 938-2840.