Authorities seek help finding burglars targeting Tampa Bay area veterans’ halls

PASCO COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – The Pasco County Sheriff’s Office released new evidence on Friday in connection with a rash of break-ins at VFW halls in several Tampa Bay area counties.

“What in the hell is going on?” asked Commander Stan Budke of VFW District 21.  “It’s kind of a low blow.”

On Friday, members of a three-county task force took their case to the media, asking for help in finding at least three suspects who they say are armed and dangerous.

Surveillance video shows a crystal-clear image of one of the suspects.  Other video obtained by News Channel 8 shows how they’ve broken down doors using a pick-up with a toe strap attached, smashed glass, and even stole a safe weighing hundreds of pounds.

“It’s gotten to a point that we believe without action being taken, that this could result in tragedy,” Captain James Steffens of the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office told News Channel 8.

Another video released on Friday shows one of the suspects parking a Toyota Tundra in the parking lot of a Circle K in Pasco County around the time of one of the burglaries.

When deputies moved in, they said he led them on a chase with speeds that reached more than 100 miles an hour.

The crooks have hit at least seven times in Pasco, Hernando, and Sumter Counties.

Commander Budke has served in the Air Force, Air Rescue, and in Vietnam.  News Channel 8 asked him how disrespected these crimes made him feel.

“I don’t even know if I can express that,” Budke said as his eyes filled up with tears and he couldn’t finish his sentence.

It’s just one reason investigators want to get the suspects in custody.

“We’re partners, and they’ve done their service and for us, now we need to step up and provide that to them,” Capt. Steffens told News Channel 8.

As for Budke, he served his country proudly and now this is what he gets.

If you have any information on any of these cases, you’re urged to call the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office.

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