By Tamas Mondovics

Hillsborough County Sheriff’s detectives arrested two men in connection with last month’s burglary of Ace Hardware, 10415 Highway 39 South in Lithia, which became the latest casualty involving the stealing of firearms.

On May 3, HCSO detectives developed probable cause to search the residence at 1607 Carson White Lane in Ruskin, and discovered 37 handguns, 14 of which had serial numbers removed, as well as 2 rifles, mask and gloves.

According to HCSO, as a result of the investigation, Garrett Mitchell, 21 and Christopher Jenke, 34, were both arrested and charged with armed burglary of a business and 46 counts of grand theft firearm HCSO said that Mitchell was additionally charged with 14 counts of possession of a firearm with an altered serial number. Of the 39 firearms recovered at Mitchell’s residence, 22 were confirmed stolen from Ace Hardware through serial number identification.  

Due to 14 of the firearms having the serial numbers removed, further investigation is need to needed to confirm, although detectives said the weapons are the same make, model and caliber as what was taken from the original burglary that occurred on Friday, April 7 at approximately 3:55 a.m.

Detectives said that the suspects entered the store by snapping a chain lock with a cutter at the garden center entrance located on the north side of the business.

After smashing the glass door to the garden center, they then cut a second set of chain locks with a cutter which was securing the entrance. HCSO said that there was little doubt about what the thieves wanted as once inside, the suspects proceeded to the rear of the store where the gun store is located.  

It is noteworthy that gun related crimes such as gun theft, robberies committed using weapons and shootings, have made more headlines in recent months than one cares to count.

While the shootings are not a direct results of recent burglaries of businesses and vehicles during which guns were stolen, it draws attention to the need for guns to be protected. “The most sought after items in vehicle burglaries are guns,” said Hillsborough County Detective and Public Information Officer, Larry McKinnon said. “There is always a market for them with a good price. So we want to urge everyone to be more vigilant and responsible gun owners.”

As always the Sheriff’s Office is grateful for the public’s assistance in these cases. For information, visit

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