LAKELAND, Fla. (WFLA) – A Lakeland couple is thankful to be alive after a terrifying night. Four people forced their way into the couple’s South Lakeland home, tied one of them up at gunpoint, and stole their car and other valuables.
Lakeland Police spent Monday interviewing three of the suspects. Police are still searching for at least one other suspect, who is believed to be driving the couple’s car.
The incident happened after midnight. Police said the four suspects forced their way into the home on Cleveland Heights Boulevard. The victim, Claudia Chritton, said she looked outside after hearing a doorbell and saw someone running away. A few minutes later, she heard a second doorbell sound and opened the door to tell them to leave. That’s when the suspects forced their way inside the home.
“Claudia started struggling with one of the guys. They were on the floor and tied her hands,” Charles Chritton said.
One suspect held a gun to Claudia Chritton’s head and asked for valuables. She called to her husband, who the suspects also threatened.
“Claudia starts yelling, ‘Chuck, Chuck,’ and I wake up. I come out and I can see her on the floor. The guy comes down the hall with a pistol and put it a couple inches from my head and pushed me back into the bedroom,” Charles said. “It was one guy doing all of the talking. He then started screaming that he would hurt Claudia if I didn’t give them more money. He also started shouting at the rest the people in the house to get the TVs.”
After about 30 minutes, the suspects left, taking stolen property with them, including an urn with the couple’s dog’s ashes, and the couple’s car.
Later, officers saw a different car speeding near Bartow Road in the Crystal Lake Drive area. The car, stolen from Orange County, had crashed in a ditch off Main Street. Officers found three vehicles who matched suspect descriptions inside that vehicle, according to the Lakeland Police Department. The suspects were also wearing clothing that matched the victims’ descriptions, police said.
In addition, police said they found items from the Chrittons’ residence.
The three suspects were taken into custody and transported to the Lakeland Police Department.
“This is after midnight. They’re in their castle, they’re home. The worst possible thing you could imagine happened: armed individuals inside of your house. They are very fortunate that they are alive today,” Lakeland Police Spokesman Sgt. Gary Gross said.
The Chrittons’ agree. “We’re here. We’re safe, and that’s all that matters,” Charles said.
Police believe the fourth suspect is in the car that was stolen from the couple, a Black 2012 Buick Lacrosse, bearing the Florida tag BGU-C84.
Julio Alcantar, age 16, from Kissimmee, Joseph Alcantar, age 15, from Kissimmee and Issiah Coffy, age 19, from Lakeland were arrested and charged with two counts of armed robbery and one count of armed burglary.
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