A Bradenton man caught on camera taking equipment from a Cortez dive shop early Nov. 11 turned himself in to police two days later.
The Manatee County Sheriff’s Office released a statement Nov. 14 that Richard J. Morris, 29, confessed to the burglary at Dive Florida, 8803 Cortez Road, Bradenton.
According to the MCSO release, the suspect stole an estimated $20,000 worth of gear, including spear guns, lighting and camera equipment.
Florida Dive shop owner Troy Sorensen and friend Bryan Eamick — who with other friends and area storeowners gathered at the shop Nov. 14 — talked about how Morris turned himself into the Bradenton Police Department the night before.
“The man has multiple brothers. One brother found out, and called the other brothers. Then they drove (the suspect) downtown to the Bradenton police station where he turned himself in,” Eamick said.
Most of the stolen equipment was returned, but there is missing cash, as well as a dive computer, regulator, camera, spear guns and knives, he said.
“I’ve got some justice, and some inventory back,” Sorensen said. “So I’m not looking to be empty for Christmas. I didn’t know what to do about that.”
The surveillance camera showed the man at the store at about 4 a.m., breaking a window and then taking the equipment, Sorensen and Eamick said.
It also showed the man using a plastic cylinder on a glass display case, hitting it against the unit—in an apparent attempt to break the glass.
After the break-in, Sorensen alerted all dive shops, as far as the east coast of Florida, and pawnshops about the burglary.
Both men were skeptical about how Morris could have traveled with the bulky equipment on a bicycle, which is the story they pieced together.
“If you see the bundle of what he had, unless he had a long bar on the handles of his bike, I’m not sure how it’s possible,” Eamick said.
“It took three trips with us carrying the equipment from the police station.” he added.
Sorensen said the man had been a customer of the store in the past.
The MCSO investigation is continuing, and officers are looking for the missing gear, he added.
Morris was released from the Manatee County jail on $3,000 bond. He will be arraigned at 9 a.m. Friday, Dec. 12, at the Manatee County Judicial Center, 1051 Manatee Ave. W., Bradenton.