By Tamas Mondovics

With gun violence and gun related crimes taking center stage in recent weeks, area residents welcome the news of local law enforcement making a difference. Thanks to the quick response and follow-up actions on the part of Hillsborough County Sheriff deputies, a mask-wearing armed robbery suspect is now off the streets and behind bars.

According to police reports, Joshua Thomas, 28 of Plant City, entered the Quick Pick Chevron station located at Hwy. 39 and S.R. 60 last month, wearing a mask and armed with a black pistol demanding money.

Strangely, according to witnesses, Thomas fled the store and rode away on a motorized bike without receiving any cash.

Deputies quickly responded to the scene, interviewed the witnesses and retrieved a store surveillance video, which revealed that Thomas was in the store nearly an hour prior, wearing the same clothing, but without the mask. Hillsborough County Sheriff Deputy Mike Roberts obtained information that Thomas was seen operating a similar bike in the area and began searching for him.

A short time later, Roberts spotted Thomas near Smith Ryals Road and S.R. 60 and attempted to stop him. Thomas fled on the bike, but was caught a short distance away as well as positively identified by witnesses as the person who committed the robbery.

While, unfortunately, the black pistol reportedly used at the gas station was not recovered, deputies and area residents are glad to see another criminal caught.

Deputies said that Thomas is a suspect in a robbery that occurred at Circle K on County Line Road and Cornet Road in Polk County just a few hours prior to the Quick Pick Chevron station robbery mentioned in this story. Polk County Sheriff’s Office is working that investigation.

Thomas was booked into the Hillsborough County Orient Road Jail and is being held without bond, charged with Armed Robbery With A Firearm; Wearing A Mask While Committing a Crime; and Resisting Arrest Without Violence. HCSO continues its investigation. For more information, visit www.hcso.tampa.fl.us.