HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. (970 WFLA) - A Tampa man and Land O’ Lakes woman are facing charges after a robbery and chase the ended on I-75 in Hillsborough County Wednesday, closing the interstate for several hours and leaving two deputies injured along with one of the suspects.
Just before 6 p.m., deputies say 30-year-old Jovanny Pena walked into the Radio Shack at 3842 Sun City Blvd wearing a stocking mask over his head while Bryna McLaughlin wearing a stocking mask over her head waited in the driver's seat of a SUV parked outside the store.
As Pena entered the store, deputies say he walked up behind a customer, put a gun in her back, grabbed the customer around the head and confronted a female store clerk behind the counter at gun point. Deputies say Pena then walked both victims to the back office and confronted the store manager and district manager who were in the office working and ordered all four victims to lie face down on the ground and not to look up. He made them empty their pockets, deputies say, taking their cell phones and other personal belongings.
Pena then loaded approximately 90 cell phones valued at approximately $56,000 dollars into a plastic bag along with an undisclosed amount of cash and left the store, deputies say.
Several minutes later, HCSO says patrol deputies spotted the SUV in the Sun City area and tried to stop them, but Pena refused to pull over. Deputies say they chased the pair northbound on I-75 to the Progress Blvd interstate overpass, exit 254 (US 301) in Tampa where the chase ended. That’s when deputies say Pena made a hard left turn and appeared to lose control in the grassy area of the median so three deputies positioned their marked patrol vehicles blocking Pena from driving away.
All three deputies got out of their vehicles with at two of them covering Pena and McLaughlin at gunpoint, who were still sitting in the SUV. According to HCSO, Pena then put the SUV in drive and turned toward a deputy’s patrol car and rammed the SUV into it causing the patrol vehicle to hit a deputy and knock him to the ground where he suffered a possible broken shoulder.
Another deputy saw what happened and feared Pena was trying run over the other deputy who was knocked down, so he fired his gun towards Pena. Deputies say Pena continued driving forward and rammed his way through the police vehicles and drove straight towards another deputy, who tried to get out of the way but was struck on one leg as he fired at Pena.
Pena was able to make it a short distance further heading southbound in the northbound lanes of I-75 before he hit two citizens’ vehicles and disabling his own SUV, deputies say. Pena and McLaughlin were quickly taken into custody without further incident, according to HCSO.
Hillsborough County firefighters transported Pena to Tampa General Hospital for medical treatment of a least one gunshot wound to his upper body, deputies say, Bryna L. McLaughlin was not injured in the incident, however she was transposed by EMS to a local hospital after she complained of an unrelated medical issue.
The two people in their cars who Pena hit with his SUV were not injured, according to officials, and both deputies are expected to fully recover. Once the deputies are released from the hospital, authorities say they will be placed on routine administrative leave pending review of the incident by the Hillsborough County State Attorney's Office.
Detectives will look into the history of the two suspects and see if they may be involved any other area robberies, according to HCSO.
Jovanny Pena, 30
Attempted Murder of a Law Enforcement Officer Aggravated Battery on a Law Enforcement Officer Armed Robbery of a Business Armed Robbery of a Person X3 Armed Kidnapping False Imprisonment X3
Bryna L. McLaughlin, 30
Armed Robbery of a Business
Armed Robbery of a Person X3
False Imprisonment X3
File Photo Credit 970 WFLA/K. Norman