NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — A series of burglaries in a Norfolk neighborhood has those who live there on edge.
Two such break-ins on May 1 and May 6 are believed to be connected.
The first time, Tamara Villalobos-Flores was asleep when she heard someone walking through her home. The second time the thieves came back, her 16-year-old son was at home taking a nap.
For years, Villalobos-Flores saved up thousands of dollars for a complete remodel of her Estabrook home. That dream has been foiled by thieves twice in a matter of days.
“I awoke to somebody playing my son’s guitar. I heard two voices speaking and I immediately knew these were not my contractors,” Villalobos-Flores told 10 On Your Side.
Brand new windows were broken in, the garage door was battered and a couch was damaged. The storage pod was ransacked along with tools, jewelry and her son’s electronics stolen at 6:30 a.m.
“They had his Xbox, his PlayStation and then I had two gun safes that were missing out of the pod, and then I had two safes that they had broken into in the house because I was missing a .45 Ruger competition service firearm,” Villalobos-Flores explained.
One of the burglars attempted to enter Villalobos-Flores’ bedroom.
“I said, ‘If you enter, I’m going to shoot you’ and the male voice yelled out ‘My bad’ and they ran out of the house,” Villalobos-Flores recalled.
Surveillance video captured by a neighbor shows a man in black sprinting out of the house through the front door. Investigators later tracked the thieves to a home on Kennon Avenue where they recovered some of Villalobos-Flores’ stolen property. A police report described a makeshift residence in the backyard of the Kennon Avenue home that contained numerous items and appeared to be lived in. It also contained what appeared to be a military-grade rocket launcher, the report said.
An explosive ordnance disposal specialist was called in along with the Norfolk Bomb Squad, ATF and the FBI. A suspect vehicle was also towed from the property.
Five days later around 10:30 p.m., another break-in happened at Villalobos-Flores’ home.
“The young man who broke in on the second day, he was arrested Thursday evening, released on bond Friday morning and broke into my house Friday evening. Then left without incident,” Villalobos-Flores explained.
This time, her son was home alone.
“It’s not just a feeling of being violated. The first time, I’m a military veteran; I am trained to protect myself, I am trained to use my firearm, I am trained to deescalate a situation as best as I possibly can. On the second time, my son was in the house. There is no training that any person can do to prepare to try to figure out how to keep their son safe. Any of their children safe,” Villalobos-Flores said.
Villalobos-Flores was returning home that night when she noticed signs of forced entry. She watched as two people escaped from her home. She called the police.
“It’s the most terrifying experience that I ever had,” Villalobos-Flores stated.
The suspects left their truck behind, which was parked in front of her home. When police left the scene, the thieves came back for the truck. Villalobos-Flores said she and her neighbors blocked them in and again called police who eventually let the two suspects go due to lack of evidence.
Villalobos-Flores told us their truck was not registered and did not have the correct tags.
“Now I’m waiting to see if there’s going to be a third break-in or maybe one of my elderly neighbors are murdered over what a tablet? Some loose cash? Some medication in a medicine cabinet? Nobody deserves to live like this,” Villalobos-Flores stated.
She’s trying to pick up the pieces of a life she’s worked so hard to build.
“Who’s going to decorate my kid’s bedroom when they stole the decorations for her bedroom? I just replaced my son’s TV. That TV’s gone. Jewelry. My grandmother’s wedding rings. Who’s going to replace any of that? Nobody. It’s just left on the homeowner and you try to battle it out with homeowner’s insurance but that doesn’t add up to this broken garage. They stole anything that they could grab onto. Memories,” Villalobos-Flores said with tears in her eyes.
She wants the thieves locked up for good.
“They’re stealing futures and that’s what they don’t understand,” Villalobos-Flores said.
Norfolk police say the Birch Street break-ins in Estabrook are tied to a single group of people. They steal property and pawn items off for cash to buy drugs. If you see something unusual in your neighborhood or on your security cameras, call police.
Those with information are encouraged to submit a tip via P3 tips or call the Crime Line at 1-888-LOCK-U-UP.