Off-duty deputy finds burglars at mother-in-law's Riverview home

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Two men were arrested Monday after an off-duty deputy caught them burglarizing his mother-in-law's home, the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office said.

It was just after 7 p.m. Monday when James Murray, who works for the Lamar County Sheriff's Office in Mississippi but was visiting the Bay Area, pulled up after going out to dinner to the home on Whispering Hammock Drive in Riverview.

"My mother-in-law was walking through the house toward the back where the master bedroom was and she just went to screaming," Murray said. "I didn't know what she was screaming about. As I made my way through, I saw one subject standing in the bedroom, another subject was attempting to come through the window that had been busted out."

There were two 18-year-olds - later identified by the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office as Jovanni Lozano and Kevin Noriega Cruz - in the home who had apparently used a landscaping rock to shatter a bedroom window.

"Me being a law enforcement officer, I wanted to try and catch the guys that were breaking into my in-laws' residence," Murray said. "I've been a cop for 21 years, been on SWAT for 14 years. It was more or less just calm, I need to apprehend these guys."

Murray ran after the pair, jumped a fence and chased them down the street. Lozano allegedly pulled out a handgun and fired one round at the pursuing deputy, but missed, according to investigators.

The off-duty deputy backed off and kept an eye on the suspects for as long as he could.

Murray contacted the 911 center, and Hillsborough County deputies used the information Murray relayed to them to locate the suspects. A K-9 team found Lozano and Noriega Cruz hiding inside the Riverview Flower Farm, about a mile from the burglarized home. Both were arrested. 

Detectives are looking into whether the two teenagers are responsible for other similar crimes in the area.

"I've heard of a lot of break-ins in the area and neighboring communities," said Rochelle Hooke, who lives a block away, adding she's relieved Murray was able to help deputies catch the would-be thieves. "I think that that was very courageous of him. That's something that I wouldn't personally do. But he is an officer, so I guess he's used to it."

Investigators and dive teams were back out at the scene Tuesday, searching for the gun in the grass and in a nearby lake. It's unclear if detectives found the weapon.