DELAND, FL – An Orange County man was convicted of Principal to Armed Burglary following a jury trial in Volusia County today, April 7, 2021. The charge stems from a break-in at a DeBary gun store where 18 firearms were stolen in July of 2018. Jaquez Tuijay Smith, 21, faces a mandatory life sentence at a hearing to be set later this month. Smith is a Prison Release Reoffender, meaning he is qualified for the enhanced sentence – he committed this crime within a 3-year window after being released from prison. Smith has 9 prior felony convictions, including grand thefts, burglary, criminal mischief, and grand theft auto.
Jaquez and other suspects used bricks to smash their way into a gun store and stole handguns, shotguns, and AR-10 and AR-15 rifles. Orange County deputies then followed the group back to Orlando, where they conducted a traffic stop and took all five defendants into custody. Three of them ran from the vehicle but were apprehended.
All but one of the stolen firearms were recovered. There were 15 guns recovered from the vehicle in Orlando, one more recovered on one of the defendants, and another one found outside the store. The remaining missing gun was entered as stolen. The total value of the guns taken from the store was $14,580.
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“We are fortunate that the defendants were caught and 17 firearms recovered. You can bet those firearms would have been put on the street and used for criminal activities. The defendant is a career criminal with nine prior felony convictions. He will spend the rest of his life in prison.”State Attorney R.J. Larizza
“There’s no doubt the guns stolen in this brazen case would have been used to hurt or kill someone. I’m just grateful no innocent person was shot during the break-in, and I’m thankful for all the hard work and follow-up that led to this conviction today. All other criminals thinking about coming to Volusia County to victimize our residents or our businesses need to think about the consequences waiting for you when you get caught.”Sheriff Michael Chitwood
Assistant State Attorney Jeanne Stratis, of the State Attorney’s Career Criminal Unit, prosecuted the case. Circuit Judge Dawn Nichols presided over the case and will pronounce sentence at a later date.