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Island burglary suspects caught

ANNA MARIA — Manatee County Sheriff’s Office investigators say they hope the arrest of two suspected burglars will put an end to a recent rash of break-ins in Anna Maria that has city officials and residents worried.

Manatee sheriff’s spokesman Dave Bristow said detectives believe two 18-year-old men arrested in the process of breaking into a well-known Anna Maria restaurant Tuesday may have been hitting homes and businesses across all of Anna Maria Island.

Authorities arrested John O’Keefe and Patrick Banker after a short chase when the men fled from the restaurant in the 100 block of South Bay Boulevard.

Sheriff’s reports say a deputy was making a routine building check of the Waterfront at 1:48 a.m. and found a car outside holding burglary tools. The deputy then heard a window break and saw two men run from the restaurant.

A Holmes Beach police officer captured one of the men, and a sheriff’s K-9 tracked the other. Both men were brought back to the restaurant and Banker admitted to the burglary attempt, the sheriff’s report said. O’Keefe denied taking part in the burglary but had glass fragments on his arm, according to the report.

Deputies also found masks, gloves, bolt cutters, a window puncher and hand-held radios in the car, Bristow said.

Bristow said the teens are suspects in at least six other other burglaries in Anna Maria and elsewhere in Manatee County. Bristow said Banker has been cooperative with detectives and has agreed to take deputies on a tour of places the pair has hit.

Bristow said city police departments on Anna Maria Island and Longboat Key are also looking into whether the pair committed burglaries.

“There are burglary cases across the island we are looking at for these two. There are cases in Longboat, Bradenton Beach and Holmes Beach, as well as Anna Maria,” Bristow said. “It could end up being 15 to 20 cases. It is a big break for us because unless you catch them in the act it is hard to make arrests.”

Bristow said the pair’s arrest was not the only suspected burglary team to be caught Tuesday. Nearly two hours after the Waterfront arrest, sheriff’s K-9 dogs were called to duty in the 500 block of 66th Avenue West on a reported burglary. A homeowner called 911 saying two people were trying to cut locks off his ATV.

When deputies arrived. the men fled but were quickly located by the dogs. One of the K-9s bit Kent Koblect, 18, on the ankle causing him to be hospitalized at Lakewood Ranch Medical Center.

The K-9s then found Trevor Craig, 18, hiding in heavy brush. He surrendered without incident, the sheriff’s report said. Both men were arrested on charges of burglary, resisting arrest and possession of burglary tools.

“We think they may have committed quite a few burglaries in the area, too,” Bristow said.

“It was a pretty good night for us.”