GIBSONTON, Fla. - A Gibsonton flower shop turned consignment store at 7724 Gibsonton Drive was in the business of selling used goods, except not all of them were legal.
Many of them were deadly, and just 20 yards from Gibsonton Elementary School.
"Our detectives put their lives on the line. They knew they were dealing with dangerous armed felons," said Hillsborough County Sheriff David Gee. "Our investigators made drug and gun transactions with the suspects inside this consignment shop."
For six months, starting in July 2012, detectives worked undercover to purchase 35 assault rifles and other guns, along with silencers. They also bought illegal narcotics, like crack, meth, and prescription drugs.
"The sawed-off shotgun is an anti-personnel weapon," Sheriff Gee said. "It's meant for one thing and that's to kill people."
Most of the 13 dealers facing charges Tuesday are convicted felons. Ten of them are behind bars, but three are still on the run.
"It is frightening, because the one thing these individuals know when they walk out of the prison doors, is that the one thing they know is that they cannot possess a firearm," explained State Attorney Mark Ober.
The operation wasn't without potentially fatal moments for the detectives involved. In undercover video, one suspect says, "I hate the government, cops too… If the opportunity strikes, I will be slinging lead at them."
"In one instance, a detective encountered unexpected gunfire, when the suspect spontaneously fired his gun into the ground to demonstrate the effectiveness of a silencer," said Sheriff Gee.
Given what the suspects threatened, Ober promises to teach the repeat offenders a lesson they didn't learn the first time.
"What I vow to you, is to make certain that these individuals and others that may come, are going to have a very rough ride through the criminal justice system," he said.
The suspects currently at large are Michael Fox (12/20/63), Edwina Hampton (1/15/60), and Amberlie Jones (10/10/89). If you have any information about their whereabouts, call the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office.
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