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A stolen car was ditched early Saturday in the front yard of this home near 36th Avenue East and Old Howard Mill Road. A suspect, 23-year-old Antonio T. Robledo, was booked in the St. Louis County Jail on charges of gas theft, possession of a stolen vehicle, burglary, tampering with a motor vehicle, trespassing and assaulting a police officer. Derek Montgomery / dmontgomery@duluthnews.com

Wanted Duluth man allegedly taunts police; they have last laugh

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Wanted Duluth man allegedly taunts police; they have last laugh
Willmar Minnesota 2208 Trott Ave. SW / P.O. Box 839 56201

DULUTH - A Duluth man suspected of stealing gas from a local station and fleeing in a stolen car was captured after an hours-long search early Saturday -- and he allegedly repeatedly called 911 to taunt police.

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"The suspect apparently was unaware of the tenacity of the police officers involved as they braved frigid temperatures tracking the suspect in the snow, on foot and with a police dog," a Duluth Police Department news release said. The low temperature at the Duluth airport Saturday morning was 18 below zero.

The suspect, 23-year-old Antonio Thomas Robledo, was booked in the St. Louis County Jail on charges of gas theft, possession of a stolen vehicle, burglary, tampering with a motor vehicle, trespassing and assaulting a police officer.

Robledo has had frequent contact with the local law enforcement system.

He pleaded guilty exactly a year earlier -- Feb. 28 -- to burglarizing homes in eastern Duluth, some while the owners were in the house. He told police then that he chose that part of the city to burglarize because "he knew people didn't lock their houses out east." He was sentenced to 24 months in prison and given credit for about 4½ months served. It was unclear Saturday why Robledo was free 12 months later.

He has appeared in St. Louis County Court in connection with four separate sets of charges since December 2006, according to Duluth News Tribune archives.

Duluth police gave the following account of this weekend's events: On Friday evening, police responded to a report of a gas theft at the Holiday station on 27th Avenue West. Station employees gave police a license plate number and a description of the vehicle, which turned out to have been stolen from the Lincoln Park/West End neighborhood.

About 2 a.m. Saturday, a Duluth officer spotted the vehicle -- a black 2000 Audi -- near Lake Avenue and Superior Street. The officer stopped the vehicle near the on-ramp to northbound Interstate 35, but then the driver sped off, hitting a guardrail while entering the on-ramp and turning off the Audi's lights.

Officers searched for the vehicle, and located it abandoned in a yard near 36th Avenue East and Old Howard Mill Road. Soon after, the suspect allegedly began calling 911 from a cell phone, telling dispatchers that he was "smarter than the police" and would not be captured.

About 4:30 a.m., a homeowner in the 700 block of Ridgewood Road called 911 to report a prowler who had entered their garage; police were conducting their search nearby.

The homeowner told a News Tribune reporter Saturday that a man rang the doorbell of his home about 4:30. The homeowner, who asked that his family not be named for fear of retribution, said he believed the man was trying to see whether people were home or sleeping soundly. He said the man made a mess in his truck in what he believes was a search for keys.

Within minutes, officers located Robledo in a shed in a yard on Ridgewood Road. Robledo resisted arrest and assaulted two officers, according to police, though "neither sustained significant injury."

Robledo's criminal history includes convictions in Hennepin County for theft of a motor vehicle and fleeing a police officer in a motor vehicle. He has been charged in St. Louis County with financial transaction card fraud and in Kandiyohi County with fifth-degree assault.

Robledo was arrested in October 2007 in connection with the string of eastern Duluth home burglaries just after crashing a stolen black Audi.

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