13-year-old steals vans and goes on crime spree

Posted at 5:25 PM, Feb 23, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-23 17:25:29-05

A 13-year-old is now in custody after law enforcement says he went on a crime spree Monday night. 

"I think we happened to fall into the line of sight for this young man and there are vans sitting right there and nobody watching them," said Brian McEwen, executive director of Champions for Children.


Hillsborough County deputies say the teen slipped through an unlocked window and swiped keys to a van at Dimples Playland Childcare on 12th Avenue South. That's where he started a crime spree that lasted nearly two hours. 


"It was such a small window I don't think we took seriously the fact that a grown person could slip through it, well now we know it wasn't a grown person that slipped through it," McEwen said.


A few minutes away, Cell Tech recorded surveillance video of the teen trying to get into their store. The owner said he watched the white van pull up on his security monitors from home, driving erratically. 


"Backing up, going in, backing up, going forward, like, I know it was a kid that is driving the van because it's like there's no way he doesn't know how to drive a van," said Bilal Berjawi, the owner.


In the video, the boy gets out of the van and heads around the back of the store. 


"He's climbing trying to go to the roof to see if there is any way he can get in," Berjawi said. 


Berwaji and his brothers chased the boy away. Deputies said he ran back to the daycare, stole another van, then crashed that one at 78th Street and Madison Avenue. He tried to steal a bike a half a mile away, then deputies caught him in a wooded area nearby.


The Sheriff's Office, Tampa Police Department and Florida Highway Patrol all worked to catch the teenager during the night. 


"It's really hard once they start fleeing because obviously the officers and the deputies involved don't want to create an accident," said Cristal Nunez with the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office. 


The 13-year-old is now in a juvenile detention center with multiple charges against him, including burglary of an unoccupied structure and grand theft.