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July 17, 2007
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Fla. officers report double trouble with firearms

ORLANDO, Fla. — Crime pushed Orlando a little closer to the OK Corral over the weekend with twice the typical number of guns seized, stolen or fired.

At least two victims fought back, including a Pine Hills resident who opened fire with an assault rifle on an armed burglar, reports show.  Miguel Angel Perez told police he fired three times at the burglar about 11 p.m. Friday to protect his children and himself.

"He was certain if the suspect were able to get his gun, he would have been shot," an officer wrote.

The burglar escaped, apparently unhurt.  One bullet hit a car parked outside Village Lake Apartments, reports show.

Orlando police and the Orange County Sheriff's Office reported at least 16 gun-related crimes from Friday night to Sunday night.  That's about twice the number reported in an average weekend.

The crimes led to the confiscation of five stolen firearms, also an unusually large number for a 48-hour period, according to police.

"Man, how did that gun get down here?" asked police Sgt. Barbara Jones about a Soviet-era carbine, stolen from Illinois, which was used late Friday in a home invasion in MetroWest.

The victim, who asked not to be identified, escaped by standing in his third-story bedroom window, breaking his neighbor's adjacent window and jumping through the jagged glass to safety, reports show.

"I still have nightmares about it," said the 31-year-old man, who helped identify three suspects arrested by police.

"I made a leap of faith."

Besides the carbine from Illinois, the other four guns were stolen from Orange County motorists and residents during the past three years.

In two of those four burglaries, more than 20 guns were taken, reports show.

Tracking stolen weapons and arresting underworld suppliers of hot guns is one of the goals of Orlando police and Sheriff's Office efforts to reduce violent crime.

One of the weapons now being traced is an AK-47 found just before midnight Friday on South Orange Blossom Trail.

Someone tossed the 30-shot assault rife from a pickup after shooting repeatedly into a house on Sunset Lake in west Orlando, reports show.

Residents of the house told police they weren't interested in pressing charges if the gunmen were caught.

Last year, a record-breaking 121 murders were reported countywide.  So far this year, there have been 62.

Orlando police Chief Mike McCoy and Sheriff Kevin Beary, as well as police officers and deputy sheriffs on the street, have attributed much of the violence to young criminals' easy access to guns.

Last weekend's youngest suspect was a 14-year-old Rosemont Elementary School student who remained at large Monday after taking a Ford Explorer in an armed carjacking on Saturday, reports show.

His 15-year-old accomplice, Devonte Francis of Orlando, was disarmed and captured by the owner of the carjacked SUV, reports show.

Elio Manso, 35, grabbed the revolver in Francis' hand and wrestled him to the ground.

Manso continued fighting for the gun after the other teen attacked him as well before fleeing.

The second teen's name was not released.

Police recommend that anyone confronted by an armed criminal comply rather than risking getting shot and possibly killed.

The .38-caliber revolver recovered after police arrived was one of 13 handguns reported stolen in 2005 from an Orange County gun collector.

Under Florida's Juvenile Justice system, Francis may only face 21 days of detention if he is not prosecuted as an adult.

Copyright 2007 Sentinel Communications Co.

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