Chitwood calls Orange County handling of DeBary gun store burglary dangerous

Orange County sheriff says his deputies made right call

VOLUSIA COUNTY, Fla. – Volusia County Sheriff Mike Chitwood is calling out the Orange County Sheriff's Office for how it handled a burglary at a DeBary gun store Friday night.

"We should have been informed from the very beginning that this was going to happen," Chitwood said.

Instead, Chitwood said, Orange County deputies followed a stolen car full of wanted criminals into Volusia County and watched them burglarize SWUB Tactical Gun shop.

Chitwood said VCSO was told they were following the car into DeBary, but asked Volusia authorities to stay away. When the group started burglarizing the gun shop, Orange County deputies called the Volusia County dispatch and again told them to stay away, according to Chitwood.

"The fact that you would allow someone to commit a felony with firearms and then leave the area with those firearms," Chitwood said. "How were they so sure that these guys weren't going to get away?"

Deputies said they arrested the group of four teens and 19-year-old Jaquez Smith, and recovered 17 of the 18 stolen guns.

One DeLand gun shop manager said he has many concerns about how the Orange County Sheriff's Office handled this operation. "To allow that to happen is just inconceivable to us," said Richard Paiva, manager of Gold Medal Enterprises.

Paiva said what happened not only cost the gun store owner money, but could have put him danger because he said several gun shop owners sleep at the store sometimes for extra security.

"Imagine the gun store owner was staying there overnight and law enforcement is sitting there watching this take place," Paiva said. "There could have been a gun battle inside that store and there could have been an innocent loss of life."

The Orange County Sheriff's Office released this statement about how it handled the operation and responded to Chitwood's remarks.

Sheriff's Office officials said Orange County deputies arrested five felony suspects at 3:00 a.m. in DeBary Friday.

According to the statement, the Orange County Sheriff’s Office had no prior knowledge of specifically where the suspects would commit a crime. It said all suspects were apprehended in a location that would least expose anyone to danger. Authorities said all the weapons taken were recovered and returned to the store owner.

Deputies said no one was injured outside of a K-9 biting one of the suspects.

"As a result of this investigation various crime cases within multiple jurisdictions have been solved," the statement read. "Our communities are safer because those arrested are now in custody."

In the statement, Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings said he is just as "passionate" as Chitwood about keeping citizens safe, calling him a "great community partner."

"We have worked together on several cases and will continue to work together on future law enforcement operations ensuring that proper diligence is taken during the planning and execution of any law enforcement operation," Demings said. "Ultimately, in this case my deputies made the right decisions which resulted in the safe apprehension of a group of serial burglars."

About the Author:

Loren Korn is a native Texan who joined the News 6 team as a reporter in May 2014. She was born and raised in Houston and graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a degree in Journalism.