SEMINOLE COUNTY -- An attempted armed robbery of an Internet cafe in Seminole County early Tuesday left one of the suspected robbers dead and deputies combing Pine Hills for his accomplices.
Gary Bryant, 21, was one of two men who walked into the Allied Veterans Internet Cafe at 3030 East Semoran Boulevard about 1 a.m. and later ended up dead after a shootout with a security guard.
The gun battle took at a strip-mall business where patrons can take advantage of a loophole in state law about sweepstakes games and play casino-style games after buying Internet time.
Such operations have become targets of criminals in recent years because they’re known for having thousands of dollars at any given time, critics of them say.
When Bryant and the other man entered the building, one of them immediately became involved in an altercation with a security guard.
One of the robbers fired a shot at the security guard, who in turn fired a round and struck Bryant in the back.
Just before leaving the scene in an older-model tan Oldsmobile, one of the robbers fired several gunshots into the business.
An investigator from the Seminole sheriff’s office saw the vehicle and tried to stop it, but the driver sped off.
Shortly afterward, the vehicle and arrived at a Value Inn on Clarcona-Ocoee Road near U.S. Highway 441, where the two other men inside the vehicle left Bryant’s body.
Orange County deputies chased two men in the car, but the men fled the vehicle -- which deputies later determined was stolen -- in the Pine Hills area of west Orange and ran away on foot.
The Orange County Sheriff’s Office used K-9 units to try to track the two men, who remained at large Tuesday.
Bryant, meanwhile, was declared dead at a hospital.
He was on probation for robbery, according to the Seminole sheriff’s office. Public records also show that he was arrested as a juvenile on charges including resisting an officer without violence, vehicle theft and robbery with a firearm. He also has been charged as an adult, including a December 2009 arrest for escape.
Details of that arrest were not immediately available Tuesday.
Tuesday’s incident was at least the third robbery or robbery attempt at an Internet cafe in Florida this year.
Each location can take in tens of thousands of dollars each week, said Brian Kongsvik, helpline director of the Florida Council on Compulsive Gambling.
In January, Big Apple Sweepstakes, an Internet cafe in Orange City, was robbed of about $2,000. Last month, three men armed with shotguns walked into an Internet cafe in Bradenton, demanded money from everyone inside and fled after firing a shot in the air.
The cafes are convenient stops for dedicated gamblers -- and people who don’t normally travel to casinos and other gaming facilities.