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Tampa police make arrest in series of armed robberies

TAMPA — When police found him, he was hiding in a bathtub.

James Morris, 51, of 6617 Interbay Blvd. was arrested on three counts of armed robbery. Police say he robbed three convenience stores in five days, armed with a sawed-off shotgun.

The last robbery happened at 9 p.m. Thursday at the Bayshore Quick Mart, 5435 Bayshore Blvd., police say. The first was Sunday at a 7-Eleven on Gandy Boulevard and the second was Wednesday at a Sunoco on S MacDill Avenue.

After the Bayshore robbery, though, detectives worked through Thursday night into Friday morning to put an end to the spate of robberies, finally tracking Morris down using a witness description of the getaway car.

Police said Morris approached the Quick Mart counter, asked the clerk for cigarettes, then pointed a short-barrel shotgun at the clerk and demanded cash.

When the man fled, the clerk noticed a portion of the word "Toyota" on the grille of the truck.

Detective Ray Estevez used an Internet search to narrow down the year of the truck to a 1989 to 1991 model — the only years Toyota trucks used the kind of grille lettering the witness described. That night Estevez and Sgt. Eddie Preston drove to homes in two ZIP codes where Toyota trucks made in those years were registered. There were 30.

The last house they visited also had a gray Avalon in the driveway — the same kind of car used in Sunday's 7-Eleven robbery at 3101 Gandy Blvd. Clothing inside the Avalon also seemed to match the description of the clothing worn in the first robbery, police said.

Morris was inside, hiding, police said, and so was a sawed-off shotgun.

Morris said he thought the man in surveillance video looked like him, but told police he didn't remember committing the crimes, police said.

Morris was arrested at 5 a.m. Friday and was being held without bail at the Falkenburg Road Jail.

James Morris, 51, is charged in several armed robberies.

James Morris, 51, is charged in several armed robberies.

Tampa police make arrest in series of armed robberies 07/17/09 [Last modified: Saturday, July 18, 2009 4:01pm]

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