MANATEE COUNTY — The Manatee County Sheriff’s Office has made another arrest in a recent string of home burglaries in the East County.
Manatee County Sheriff’s Office deputies on July 27 arrested 20-year-old Justin Lizardi, of Heritage Harbour. Lizardi, who had attended Braden River High School, has been charged with 10 residential burglaries and associated charges such as loitering and prowling, possession of burglary tools and grand theft.
His bond totals more than $103,000.
He also had been arrested May 13 on a separate theft after trust charge.
The sheriff’s office’s surveillance team, COPS North, already had developed Lizardi as a suspect in several East County crimes. But a lead from a resident who had confronted Lizardi while he attempted to take some golf clubs helped deputies move forward in this case, said Lt. Rick Gerken of the COPS North unit.
“Each of these cases usually comes from a citizen who sees something and notifies law enforcement,” Gerken said. “It helps us to be more successful in what we are doing. It makes a big difference.”
After surveillance began July 27, deputies observed Lizardi leaving his residence in the 9000 block of Willow Brook Circle in Heritage Harbour at about 2:40 p.m., that day. He was riding his bicycle and carried a backpack, a sheriff’s office report states.
“He came out ready to work,” Gerken said. “He had some ceramic tile and rock in the backpack for smashing out windows. You could tell (the backpack) was empty. We just started loosely following him.”
The unit’s surveillance team saw Lizardi walk around a home in the 9100 block of Brookfield Terrace. He left after a pool cleaning company arrived at that location. The report states Lizardi crossed the street and went around the rear of the residence, where he was seen picking up a brick paver and entering a pool cage. He made several attempts to break the window in the back door as well as a glass sliding door.
“We had some people in the area who could hear him and see him pounding on the glass,” Gerken said. “He would come around the front to make sure no one was coming, and then he would go back around.”
Unable to break the glass, Lizardi walked to a neighboring home and entered through an unlocked rear sliding door.
After a few minutes, he left the residence with a full backpack and started to ride away on his bicycle when two deputies attempted to apprehend him. When he was ordered to stop, Lizardi got off his bike and fled on foot. Deputy K9 Roscoe was released and bit Lizardi on the buttocks, which resulted in his surrender.
Post-Miranda, Lizardi gave detectives information that linked him to a total of 10 burglaries, including one in River Club where more than $36,000 of jewelry was taken. He also admitted to stealing golf clubs from additional homes — incidents that had not yet been reported.
Lizardi took the jewelry — including a single ring valued at $28,000 — to a gold dealer and sold it for $750, sheriff’s office reports said. The jewelry was identified by the owner and will be returned following the investigation.
According to Lizardi’s Facebook profile, he is enrolled at Southeastern Louisiana University.
Gerken said the COPS North unit is pursuing other suspects.
“We have taken some proactive steps to look for areas that these burglars would target,” said Randy Warren, assistant public information officer. “Knowing how (these burglars) like to operate and studying some of the methods they’ve used, we’re able — when we’re fortunate enough to be in the right place at the right time — to see some of these occur. We’re starting to see what they are doing. That’s helping us to see what they are doing. That’s helping us to make some arrests.
“We have been able to make some arrests we feel are key players or impact players in the home and auto burglaries,” he said. “Once we start catching some of these impact people, we’re starting to see a decline in the number (of burglaries overall).”
Warren said the sheriff’s office is continuing to educate the public to lock the doors to their homes and vehicles and to keep valuables out of sight.
“People have to continue to lessen their chances of being a victim,” he said. “Don’t invite someone to steal your stuff. That continues to be a problem. People need to practice good crime prevention.
The sheriff’s office also encourages residents to report any suspicious behavior they see, as it could assist in preventing crimes or solving existing cases.
Contact Pam Eubanks at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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