LAKELAND, Fla. – The Polk County Sheriff’s Office arrested a man late Tuesday night, April 6, 2021, after he burglarized a Lakeland Goodwill Store then attempted to elude deputies.
At about 11:40 PM, a deputy noticed 53-year-old Charles Gozzola of Lakeland, arrive at the store at 5411 South Florida Avenue in a silver 2008 Chrysler Town & Country van. Gozzola exited his vehicle and began rummaging through items in the covered donation area, then loading them into his van.
As Gozzola began to drive away, the deputy moved his patrol vehicle in front of the van and activated his emergency lights. Gozzola maneuvered his van away from the patrol car then fled at a high rate of speed.
Gozzola’s van came to a stop on County Road 540A, just east of South Florida Avenue, and he fled on foot.
When the deputy arrived at the abandoned van, a bicyclist yelled out to the deputy that the suspect ran towards the nearby bank. Gozzola was apprehended in that area.
Following his arrest, Gozzola admitted to being the driver, stealing the items, and then fleeing because he panicked. Gozzola also made a comment that he was going back to prison.
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“First, I’d like to thank the bicyclist who aided our deputies with locating the suspect. Secondly, just because these items are donated, doesn’t mean you can just help yourself to them. It’s plain and simple theft to take them, and for those who can’t figure that out on their own, a sign is posted right where these items were taken from that literally says, ‘Removing items from this location is considered theft and is illegal.’ As the saying goes, ‘There’s your sign,” said Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd.
Charles Gozzola was transported to the Polk County Jail and charged with: Burglary of a Structure (F3), Felony Petit Theft (F3), and Resisting (M1), and criminally cited for Fleeing to Elude and Knowingly Driving While License Suspended/Revoked.
Gozzola has a prior criminal history consisting of 16 felonies and 11 misdemeanors to include charges of: Robbery with a Firearm, Aggravated Assault, Burglaries, Assault, Grand and Petit Thefts, Batteries, Dealing in Stolen Property, Criminal Mischief, Resisting, and Drug Possession.
He has been incarcerated in Florida State Prison a total of six times, with his most recent release in 2014.