Gabriel James Brown is accused of four armed robberies in southwestern Florida. He was arrested in Pace Wednesday with a gun, cash, and disguises used in a bank robbery still in his vehicle.
Santa Rosa law enforcement were put on alert by authorities in Hillsborough County, saying Brown might be in the area driving a 1999-2000 Isuzu Rodeo, gray in color. A Florida Highway Patrol trooper spotted the vehicle with the suspect inside shortly after the notification. Santa Rosa Sheriff's deputies and FHP together made a traffic stop that resulted in the arrest of Brown.
Now officials say the man has confessed to investigators who flew to the Panhandle to talk with Brown, according to Auburndale Police Lt. Carlos Roman. He says numerous agencies sent investigators to interview Brown. In addition to officials from his agency, Roman says the FBI, Polk County Sheriff's Office and Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office had officers in Santa Rosa County Thursday. Brown was positively identified as the suspect in the robberies.
Auburndale police built their case after witnesses reported seeing a "suspicious vehicle" parked near the bank Tuesday morning, before the robbery. With that vehicle description, the physical description of the robber, and physical evidence linking Brown to the crime, they worked with Hillsborough Sheriff's investigators to pinpoint his identity.
Upon the arrest of Brown in Pace, Santa Rosa FHP troopers and Sheriff's deputies found "clothing, disguises, a firearm, cash, and other items connecting the suspect to the TD Bank robbery." Officials in Auburndale say Brown used a dark wig and other disguises during the armed robberies. He is also accused of tossing a smoke grenade in the bank as he departed.
A Hillsborough County Sheriff's spokesperson said Brown was one of two suspects wanted for three armed robberies in their county. The second suspect has not yet been identified. Warrants were issued for Brown following Hillsborough's investigation into the robberies. The spokesperson said warrants also include armed kidnapping because of the nature of the crime - cashiers or tellers were threatened by the weapon and unable to leave.
Two of the Hillsborough County robberies were in Tampa and one was in Brandon. Three businesses were robbed at gunpoint and the robber wore a motorcycle helmet to avoid being identified, say officials. Those businesses are: Direct General Insurance; Metro PCS Store; and Causeway Self Storage.
Brown told investigators he robbed the bank because he lost funding for nursing school, according to officials with the Auburndale Police Department. They say he told them he has not been able to pay his bills and rent.
Brown is being held in the Santa Rosa County jail on no bond. He was taken into custody without incident.