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Search still on for stabbed burglar

MANATEE — The search is still on for an armed burglar a college student home for the holidays told authorities he stabbed in his parents’ home after catching the intruder trying to steal presents around the family’s Christmas tree.

Kevin Byrne, 19, a University of Central Florida student, said he had just gotten out of the shower about 2 p.m. Wednesday when he saw his dog take off to the Christmas tree in the home, in the 5400 block of Second Avenue Drive Northwest.

Byrne said the dog, Coco, a miniature pit bull/Labrador mix, ran at a man at the tree, grabbing his leg. Byrne said he followed the dog.

“At that point, I was seen and had been seen,” he said. “Adrenaline kicked in, and I did something that may have been stupid. I tackled him into the Christmas tree.”

A brawl ensued, according to Byrne.

“We struggled from room to room, exchanging blows. We ended up in the kitchen. He grabbed a knife. I tried reaching for a wine bottle to defend myself,” he said. “I pulled out a three-inch buck knife. I was able to stop his arm with my hand and let my knife go into his gut.”

Byrne said he believes early in the struggle the burglar may have dropped a gun, because he saw the burglar pick one up as he ran out the door and into nearby woods after the fight.

“I started to run after him until I realized he had a gun,” Byrne said. “It was something out of a movie really. We slammed each other around. I had him in a headlock at one point. We overturned a glass table. He smashed a picture frame with my sister’s picture over my head.”

Byrne said the only injuries he received were a sore jaw and a bump on the head.

“I’m still shaken up a little bit, but I’ve received a lot of support from the community,” Byrne said. “It’s one of those things you think will never happen to you.”

Sheriff’s spokesman Dave Bristow said the burglar has not been located and the case is still under investigation. Detectives have searched local hospitals and walk-in clinics for any patients reporting a stabbing, with no results, he said.

The burglar was wearing black leather gloves, a ski mask and a dark grey sweatshirt, Byrne said. According to the sheriff’s office, the suspect stands about 5 feet, 8 inches tall with a medium build, is in his 20s and has braces on his teeth.

Anyone with information on this incident can call the sheriff’s office at 747-3011, or Crimestoppers at (866) 634-TIPS.