Firearms instructor accused of molesting teens

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EL CAJON, Calif. — 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.Tony Lee Burleson

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.

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