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Students' autographs lead to vandalism charges

Eight middle-schoolers learned an important lesson Thursday: when using stolen cans of spray paint to vandalize school property, one should not paint one's name on the property.

Unfortunately for them, the students learned that lesson by being arrested Wednesday and Thursday. The seven girls and one boy, ages 12 to 15, were charged with criminal mischief, burglary and trespassing. Four of them also were charged with burglary and grand theft.

Sheriff's deputies said the group, students at Eisenhower Middle School in Gibsonton, climbed over a chain-link fence at Eastbay High School's football stadium Tuesday night. There, officials said, they broke into a shed and stole several cans of spray paint and golf carts. They sprayed their names on property and then crashed the golf carts into poles, causing $1,200 damage.

The next night, after deputies said the kids realized the spray-painted names linked them to the crime, they broke into the high school again and tried to paint over their names. The cover-up attempt failed. Four students were arrested Wednesday and the remaining four were arrested Thursday after being interviewed by Eisenhower's school resource deputy.

The Times is not naming the students because of their ages.

Pancake restaurant robbed by armed men

TAMPA _ Early morning breakfast at an International House of Pancakes was interrupted Thursday by two armed bandits.

Tampa police said two young men wearing shirts wrapped around their heads burst into the restaurant at 3501 E Busch Blvd. and waved silver-colored handguns. They told the 10 customers and two waitresses to get down on the floor. One of the gunmen took the money from the register and fled with his accomplice, police said.

Witnesses told police the suspects were driving a four-door SUV, possibly a Jeep Cherokee, with a Tampa Bay Buccaneers license tag. No one was injured.

Unload your unwanted weapons at buyback

TAMPA _ Maybe it's grandpa's old rifle, dusty and unused in the back of the closet. Or maybe it's the handgun you bought years ago.

Cease Fire Tampa Bay wants you to gather up unwanted guns and take them to law enforcement substations Saturday in exchange for $50 gift certificates to Beall's or Winn-Dixie stores.

The annual gun buyback started in Hillsborough in 1998 and has grown every year. In 1999, Manatee, Sarasota and Pasco counties joined the effort. This year, Pinellas and Polk counties are following suit.

Call (813) 253-4861 for buyback locations and information. Buyback locations are open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday.

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