An alert Charlotte County Sheriff's deputy prevented the theft of four vehicles from a Punta Gorda car lot early Friday morning.
A 23-year-old convicted felon and his teenage accomplice are both facing a variety of felony charges stemming from the incident. Johnny Lamont Tillman is being held without bond at the Charlotte County Jail.
The 14-year-old juvenile was released to the custody of his mother.
According to a Charlotte County Sheriff's Office report a K-9 deputy was on patrol at approximately 1:30 a.m. when he discovered a vehicle with its lights flashing and alarm blaring in a parking lot across the street from Punta Gorda Buy Here Pay here at 127 Carmelita St.
As the deputy investigated further he found two other vehicles on the car lot with damaged ignitions and another with a broken door lock – signs of an attempted burglary. A back-up unit arrived to assist with the investigation when the deputy spotted a silver Dodge Intrepid approaching without its headlights on.
The deputy attempted to make a traffic stop on the vehicle but the driver sped away. The Dodge was later found abandoned nearby and a perimeter was set up to locate the driver.
The K-9 picked up a scent and tracked it to the front of Charlotte Regional Medical Center where Punta Gorda Police had just stopped two suspicious males covered in sticky burrs. The pair had just emerged from a wooded area near the hospital.
An employee of the car lot came to the scene and advised investigators that two vehicles were missing – a white Chevrolet Caprice Classic and a silver Dodge Intrepid. Surveillance video from the business showed a white Dodge Caravan pulling into the lot followed by another car, a silver Mercury containing three men.
After gaining access to the Caprice the three suspects drove away. Tillman and the juvenile suspect fled in the Intrepid. Investigators say the Dodge Caravan was also stolen.
Tillman, a Lee County resident with an extensive criminal history, is facing one count of burglary to a conveyance and three counts of grand theft auto.
The investigation continues and additional charges may be filed.
If you have any information about this case please contact CCSO at 941-639-2101 or you can remain anonymous by calling Crime Stoppers at 800-780-8477.
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