East County gun instructor pleads guilty to molesting boys

EL CAJON - A Santee firearms trainer and self-described security expert pleaded guilty Thursday to charges stemming from the molestation of four teenage boys, including one who is related to him.

Tony Lee Burleson, 44, will receive a sentence of two years and eight months in state prison at a hearing March 26, Deputy District Attorney Cally Bright said.

The defendant had faced a maximum of six years behind bars.

He pleaded guilty to one felony count each of oral copulation on a person under 18, lewd act on a child, and sodomy on a person under 18, along with a misdemeanor count of sexual battery.

Burleson was originally charged last May with four child-molestation counts stemming from sex crimes that occurred over the previous two years.

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

Burleson disappeared in late May and was at large for 36 hours after learning that he was the subject of an arrest warrant in the molestation case, Bright said.

On May 28, San Diego police found the defendant 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 May 24, when a person came forward, alleging that Burleson sexually assaulted him in the 1980s.

Charges could not be filed in connection with those allegations because the statute of limitations had run out.

Detectives subsequently identified four other child-molestation victims and those boys -- ages 15 through 17 -- are the victims in the criminal case against Burleson, according to Bright.

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