East County gun instructor charged with child molestation - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

East County gun instructor charged with child molestation

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EL CAJON (CNS) - A Santee firearms trainer and self-described security expert pleaded not guilty Wednesday to charges of sexually assaulting three teenage boys.

Tony Lee Burleson, 43, faces up to 14 years in prison if convicted of the four child-molestation allegations, involving sex crimes that allegedly occurred six to eight weeks ago and last spring, according to prosecutors.

Burleson disappeared last week and was at large for 36 hours after learning that he was the subject of an arrest warrant in the case, Deputy District Attorney Cally Bright said this afternoon at the defendant's arraignment at East County Regional Center in El Cajon.

Late Tuesday afternoon, San Diego police found Burleson asleep in his bright-yellow Hummer SUV in a parking lot near a church day-care center on Santo Road in Tierrasanta, according to sheriff's Lt. James Bolwerk.

Authorities had been looking for Burleson since Friday, when a person came forward to report having allegedly been sexually assaulted by him in the 1980s, Bolwerk told reporters.

Detectives subsequently identified three other alleged child-molestation victims, the lieutenant said. Those boys -- two now aged 15 and the other 17 -- are the alleged victims in the criminal case against Burleson. One of them is a relative of his, prosecutors said.

Charges cannot be filed in connection with the initial allegations because the statute of limitations has run out.

The suspect, operator of Burleson Academy, a firearms-instruction center on East Douglas Avenue in El Cajon, also is suspected of impersonating a peace officer on at least one occasion, according to San Diego police.

Burleson was being held in county jail in lieu of $1 million bail. A preliminary hearing in the case was scheduled for June 11.

THIS IS A STORY UPDATE. For an earlier story, read below.

SAN DIEGO (CBS 8) - A fugitive wanted on child molestation charges was arrested Tuesday in the parking lot of a Tierrasanta preschool after school officials notified police.

The man, identified by police as Tony Burleson, was taken into custody at Bright Horizons Preschool in the 6000 block of Santo Road.

According to police, employees at the school grew concerned after noticing the man sleeping in a bright yellow Hummer SUV for over an hour in the parking lot. The man was ordered outside the vehicle and taken into custody without incident.

Burleson was considered by authorities as armed and dangerous. The man was also known to impersonate law enforcement, and had extensive tactical experience, according to Lt. Darryl Hoover of the San Diego Police Department.

School officials secured all youngsters inside for a short time while he was taken into custody.

Burleson's Hummer, which had yellow-and-white flashing lights on the dashboard, as well as pro-law enforcement and anti-bullying stickers on the outside of the vehicle, was later impounded to be processed for evidence.

The 43-year-old Santee resident had been wanted by the San Diego County Sheriff's Department. Tuesday night, he was booked on a charge of oral copulation of a minor.

Burleson was scheduled to be arraigned Wednesday morning.

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