TAMPA (WFLA) — A 20-year-old with no criminal record set off on a crime spree in Hillsborough County and tried to kill a deputy so that he wouldn’t have to go to jail, Sheriff Chad Chronister said Wednesday.
“How we solved this crime. How the forensic team and investigators got all the information they did in such a short period of time would make for a phenomenal storyline for any of the popular CSI TV shows,” Chronister said.
Ma’at Lee’s arrest came two days after deputies say he tried to shoot a deputy during a traffic stop early Sunday morning. But Chronister said the crime spree began days before, on Wednesday in Brandon.
Chronister said Lee robbed someone at an apartment complex and got a firearm, credit cards and other items from the victim. Later in the day, he had a friend drive him to the parking lot of an area Dave & Busters, and carjacked a vehicle at gunpoint.
On Sunday, a deputy patrolling a parking lot near 43rd Street and Skipper Road spotted the vehicle, which was missing a tag, and tried to pulled Lee over.
“He [Lee] is very acutely aware of all the crimes he’s committed. Our deputy isn’t. That’s what makes traffic stops so dangerous,” Chronister said. “He starts firing at the deputy, trying to kill the deputy, because again, he doesn’t want to go to jail.”
Chronister said the deputy showed “great restraint” when returning fire, and made sure the three bullets he fired did not strike Lee or anyone else who may have been in the car.
Chronister said deputies used surveillance video and various forensic methods to identify Lee at the suspect, and were able to find him after he made a transaction.
“This fool uses a mobile device to wire money to a credit card to do a cash transfer from the credit card to himself,” Chronister said.
Chronister said the victim from the Dave & Busters identified Lee as the person who carjacked them, and a Honda registered in Lee’s name had been towed away from the apartment complex where the first robbery occurred.
“We went back to the apartment complex and that’s where we were able to locate him and place him under arrest,” Chronister said.
Chronister said investigators later learned Lee had reportedly robbed someone in Cobb County, Georgia the week before, and stole some items, including a Bluetooth speaker.
Fingerprints on the Bluetooth speaker matched the fingerprints found inside the stolen car.
Deputies also believe they recovered the firearm Lee used to shoot at the deputy, Chronister said.
Lee was arrested Tuesday on charges of armed robbery with a firearm, grand theft with a firearm, armed carjacking, and attempted murder of a law enforcement officer. Online jail records showed no prior criminal history for Lee.