Daniel Albert Neja was arrested this week after he was found living in the luxury suite of Al Lang Stadium in downtown St. Petersburg, Florida.
CNN reports that the 39-year-old man had allegedly lived in the luxury suite for two weeks before he was arrested, with authorities only made aware he was living there after an employee discovered blankets he had been using.
Authorities say that Neja stole around $1,000 worth of merchandise during his time staying at the stadium, which is home to the soccer team Tampa Bay Rowdies. He didn’t just steal from the team store, though, as he had almost consumed $200 worth of food during his stay. “He got into the merchandise store and was wearing a bunch of team merchandise,” St. Petersburg police spokesperson Yolanda Fernandez said. “He made himself quite at home there.”
Police utilized surveillance footage to determine how long Neja had been occupying a space in the stadium. “While the officers were there, one of the employees spotted him and went into the stadium,” Fernandez explained, “and officers caught up with him right outside the stadium and he was wearing the same clothing and everything.” He was arrested on charges of third-degree felony burglary and first-degree misdemeanor of resisting an officer without violence, with bond set at $5,150.
“It’s very unusual and it’s the sort of thing that probably would only happen during Covid, because under normal circumstances that stadium would be full of people, and luxury suites would be in use and cleaned regularly,” Fernandez added.
We’re in the middle of a pandemic and that man was simply trying to survive and seek shelter. He didn’t destroy anything intentionally and $200 worth of food at a stadium is pennies in the grand scheme of things. Not to mention, he couldn’t have ‘stolen’ the clothing if he was living at the stadium.
His charges should be dropped, if you ask us.