Detectives: 1 victim in Brandon shooting was member of Bloods gang

By HOWARD ALTMAN and RAY REYES | The Tampa Tribune
December 29, 2009

brandonshooting

BRANDON – One of three men slain at a Brandon home this morning is affiliated with the Bloods street gang, Hillsborough County sheriff’s deputies say.

Authorities say Bloods member Tony Black, 22, was found dead in the back yard of 507 S. Oakwood Ave. along with Vincent Thomas, 22, and Rafael G. Guadalupe, 21. Ralph Arroyo, 21, was assaulted but survived and approached deputies when they arrived.

The sheriff’s office has not confirmed if the other victims had gang ties.

Friend Juan Maisonet said he was not aware that Thomas was involved in gang activity and appeared to be a family man who would do anything for his two children.

“He was a hard-working man,” said Maisonet said. “I don’t know what kind of people will do this to him.”

The motive for the slayings is possibly gang-related, Hillsborough Sheriff David Gee said.

“I’m told some of these people may have been involved in gang activity, and if that is true, it may shed some light on what happened,” said Gee.

The HCSO gang unit is assisting the investigation, according to Maj. Donna Lusczyinski, who called that assistance routine in homicide cases.

Maisonet has known Thomas and his family for two years and lived across the street from them in Tampa. He and other friends drove to Thomas’ home in Brandon when they learned of the killings.

He and others were visibly upset and consoled themselves as they gathered information from a Hillsborough County sheriff’s deputy parked in the driveway of Thomas’ red and white house.

“I just feel like going somewhere and crying to myself,” Maisonet said.

Deputies said a member of Thomas’ family called deputies around midnight Monday after hearing shots being fired. Thomas lived in the home.

Deputies said Thomas and Black had been shot; Guadalupe had been stabbed.

Authorities said multiple suspects pulled up in a red Mustang and went into the backyard where they confronted the four victims. The car was recovered outside of Orlando.

Shortly before midnight, a deputy arrived at 507 S. Oakwood Ave. to talk to a resident about reports of shots fired. During the investigation at the home, which is across the street from the Oakwood Baptist Church nativity scene, deputies found two bodies in a converted shed and one in the backyard, said Gee.

The shed, said Gee, had been “retrofitted with a television so they could play video games.”

A neighbor reported seeing a car speeding away from the scene headed southbound on Oakwood Avenue, said Gee.

The people living where the bodies were found were good neighbors, according to Lucy Fuchs, who has lived next door to address of the murder scene for 36 years.

“As far as we know, they are nice people,” Fuchs said of the people in the house. “We like them.”

Fuchs said Thomas occasionally borrowed tools from her husband, Frank.

“Vincent was anxious to build things,” she said, adding how sad she was to be told he was one of the victims.

Fuchs said she did not hear or see anything.

“Nothing like this has ever happened,” she said. “It is a quiet neighborhood. Everybody respects each other.”

Fuchs said she heard the police sirens and the thump of the department’s helicopter during the night.

“I was thinking I would probably wake up in the morning and think this was a bad dream,” she said.

Fuchs said the neighborhood was reeling with the news.

“I’m not frightened, I’m sad,” she said. “It’s just too shocking.”

Thomas was arrested in 2005 and charged with aggravated battery with a deadly weapon. He pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor trespass charge and was placed on 12 months probation, He also was ordered to take anger management classes and complete 50 hours of community service. His probation was terminated in March 2007.

In 2003, Thomas was charged with auto theft in St. Petersburg as a juvenile.

Thomas was employed as a school bus driver, according to Steve Hegarty, a spokesman for the Hillsborough County School District. He said Thomas became full time this school year.

Hegarty said Thomas had been “a very good employee” who had worked as a substitute bus driver before being hired on fulltime at Armwood High earlier this year.

Hegarty did not have access to school records today – the offices are closed due to the holidays – so he could not say when Thomas was hired or exactly when his probationary period ended.

All school employees undergo a background screening that includes fingerprinting, Hegarty said. Some, such as bus drivers, might have further checks that include driving records.

If anything questionable turns up, the application goes to the district’s professional standards office for review.

“They look at everything,” Hegarty said. “Obviously, they thought he was fine.”

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  1. […] Detectives: 1 victim in Brandon shooting was member of Bloods gang By HOWARD ALTMAN and RAY REYES | The Tampa Tribune… […]

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