MYAKKA CITY — Relief swept over workers at the Myakka City Community Center at the news an arrest had been made in a burglary of the non-profit’s headquarters. More importantly, almost everything stolen has been recovered.
Manatee County Sheriff’s Office deputies today arrested Matthew Paul, 16, of Myakka, on charges of grand theft and burglary in the burglary that occurred at the Wauchula Road community center sometime between Tuesday night and Wednesday morning.
Paul is accused of stealing several video games systems and dozens of video games from MCCC headquarters, where a kids summer camp had just kicked off. The community center had just purchased the video game systems a week prior for kids to use during the camp.
“We are just relieved, but also sad for the decision he made to steal from children,” said MCCC executive director Pepper Sellars. “We also really feel for his family as they go through this.”
Manatee sheriff’s spokesman Dave Bristow said Paul’s mother called authorities Thursday after seeing the game systems in her son’s bedroom. They were marked “MCCC” with permanent marker.
A sheriff’s deputy on patrol spotted Paul the next day driving in Myakka and pulled him over, Bristow said. He will be taken to a juvenile detention center. All of the game systems stolen were recovered, and only a few of the games are missing, Bristow said. Investigators believe more people may have been involved in the burglary, and the case is still under investigation, according to Bristow.
“We are glad we got this information because most burglaries don’t get solved,” said Bristow. “Burglaries are always bad because the victims feel violated, but taking this stuff from kids during a summer camp makes it that much worse.”
The recovery of the game systems came as welcome news as dozens of children lamented missing the game systems this week.
“We are just so glad that it looks like we are going to get everything back,” Sellars said.
Sellars said due to a story on the burglary in the Bradenton Herald numerous people made donations to the community center to replace the game systems and video games.
Since it looks likes the center will be getting the electronics back, the plan is to give all of the donations to another non-profit, most likely an organization for kids, Sellars said.
“We just want to thank the community for everything they did,” she said. “These donations were just so generous.”