[PHOTO CREDIT: Lake County Sheriff’s Office]
[Original Publish Date: 03/25/21]
LEESBURG, Florida — Two men are behind bars following the robberies of two gas stations in two days, and a high-speed chase Wednesday, according to multiple arrest affidavits.
Shortly before 1:15 p.m. Wednesday, an officer with Leesburg Police Department spotted a white Dodge Ram with severe driver’s side damage believed to be involved in two armed robberies in the city this week. Shortly before 11:45 p.m. Tuesday, Circle K, 3300 West Main Street was robbed by a man later identified by LPD as Rheem Jacques Cuyler, 21. Cuyler, of Leesburg, is seen on video surveillance entering the store and going straight to the bathroom; he exits the bathroom with a piece of paper in his hand and approaches the register.
He is seen handing the clerk a note that stated, “Give me all of the money now, I have a gun.” Cuyler never brandished a weapon but did reach for his waistband and the clerk told LPD he was in fear he did have a gun. The clerk gave Cuyler some cash from the register and Cuyler walked out of the store “nonchalantly,” according to an arrest affidavit. After LPD arrived at the scene, LPD K9 Lennox tracked to the former Department of Corrections building, west of Circle K and stopped at a parking spot in the Dollar General parking lot in the same area. LPD believed Cuyler entered a vehicle at this spot and Lennox lost the track.
Less than eight hours later, around 7:15 a.m. Wednesday, a second Circle K in the city was robbed. This one, located at 1331 West North Boulevard was robbed by a man with the same description as the earlier robbery, according to an affidavit. LPD identified the vehicle involved in this robbery as a damaged late model white Dodge Crew Cab truck with running boards. The truck was spotted by an LPD school resource officer in the area of Leesburg High School just minutes after the robbery and spotted again by LPD shortly before 1:15 p.m. Wednesday.
The Dodge pulled into the parking lot of Seven Stars Grocery, 2005 West Main Street and slowly drove behind a LPD officer who was parked there. The officer noticed the damage to the vehicle and when it exited the parking lot, the officer began following. The officer attempted a traffic stop by activating his lights and the Dodge immediately accelerated, according to the affidavit. The officer activated his sirens and, “The vehicle then aggressively began attempting to evade me,” he noted in the affidavit.
The truck continued to speed south on Florida Avenue and turned east onto South Street, without stopping. The truck sped down South Street and turned south on Flamingo Drive, speeding through a residential area. The officer lost sight of the truck for a few seconds and believes it cut through the parking lot of the United States Post Office and then the Southside Shopping Plaza.
The truck evaded several officers in that parking lot and then turned west on Middlesex Road; as it approached the intersection of Middlesex Road and Southwinds Way, it struck a fence and several small trees. The driver, later identified as Jamey Levar Gardner, 18, exited the vehicle and ignored several commands to stop. Gardner fled on foot, ran for several blocks and jumped a fence until he was apprehended in the front yard of a home on Sheffield Road.
Gardner was taken into custody and questioned at LPD. While there, he admitted he drove Cuyler and another male to the Tuesday night robbery. He said Cuyler did have a gun in his waistband, and he knew Cuyler was committing armed robberies and he “went along with it due to their friendship.”
Cuyler was charged with two counts of armed robbery and is being held at the Lake County Jail on $100,000 bond. Gardner was charged with fleeing and eluding, resisting without violence, no driver license and a violation of probation, and is being held on no bond. “[Gardner] is also facing robbery charges as soon as detectives get the paperwork filed,” LPD Capt. Joe Iozzi told Lake Legal News in an email.
Our Editor-in-Chief, Marilyn M. Aciego, began writing for Lake Legal News in 2010. Born and raised in Lake County, she is a graduate of Umatilla High School and Lake-Sumter State College. She started her journalism career at LSSC, where she was editor of both student publications, The Angler and The Odyssey. Her professional career began at the Daily Commercial in 2004 where she covered cops and courts the majority of her time there until she left in 2009. Currently, along with being Editor-in-Chief of Lake Legal News, she is the Florida bureau chief for an international media organization. She has made more than two dozen appearances on live national television, including Nancy Grace and the Greta Van Susteren show, along with her appearance on Evil Twins. Contact her with breaking news, tips, and feedback by sending an e-mail to 352Tips@gmail.com. You can also contact us on our Facebook page — and make sure you “Like” and “Follow us” there. [PHOTO CREDIT: Bonnie Whicher]