Three teens are charged in a car break-in at Wharton High School. A fourth suspect is being sought.
In what apparently began as a morning joy ride, deputies said, four teenagers were casing the area this week in a recently stolen Toyota, looking for car stereos to snatch.
Wharton High School's parking lot seemed like fertile territory and the group broke into at least one car there Tuesday, deputies said. But officials say the teens may have overlooked Hillsborough sheriff's Deputy Michael Eastman, the school's community resource officer. Eastman certainly did not overlook them.
The deputy led a chase on the ground and in the air that ended with the arrests of three of the four teenagers shortly before noon Tuesday.
"The resource officer tried to stop them, and they took off," said sheriff's Sgt. L. Delaney. "Eastman pursued them in a patrol car for about two miles while calling for assistance."
Jarvis Christopher Everett, 18, of 1516 138th Ave. E was charged with one count of grand theft auto, two counts of burglary of a conveyance and three counts of trespassing on school grounds. Delaney said Everett was driving a 1989 Toyota Camry that was reported stolen on Monday. He was being held at Orient Road Jail Wednesday in lieu of $2,250 bail.
Deputies also charged two 16-year-old boys as juveniles with burglary of a conveyance and trespassing on school grounds. Authorities were looking for the fourth suspect Wednesday.
"But we know who it is," Delaney said.
Wharton principal Mitchell Muley said the four teenagers were not students at the school. He said they broke a window of a student's car and made off with a stereo. Another student witnessed the theft in process and notified Eastman, who was already outside the building.
"We've been patroling more, with seniors leaving and pranksters decorating cars," Muley said. "We've had a lot more surveillance. Funny pranks, like tissue paper. But there's been more of a presence."
Eastman led the chase south on Bruce B. Downs Boulevard, aided by several patrol cars and a helicopter. Tampa police officers assisted as well.
The car was eventually stopped at the intersection of Lizard Trail, just south of Interstate 75. Deputy George Grimes chased two of the passengers 100 yards and apprehended them both.
"We've had resource deputies in the school since 1997, when the school opened," Muley said. "We wouldn't do without them."
The job rarely reaches Tuesday's level of excitement. Muley said this was the first arrest he can remember Eastman making since he came to the school. Most of the time, Eastman keeps a low profile. He spends his days leading safety and prevention programs, attends school functions, and lends an ear to students and teachers. And he declined to comment on this case.
Nonetheless, Eastman is always prepared.
"You never know," said Muley. "We've had severe accidents in front of the building. He's had to respond to (involuntary commitment) of kids. It's really good to have him here."
_ Michael Sandler can be reached at 226-3472 or sandlersptimes.com.