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Documents detail killer's north Tampa shooting rampage

Andre Watkins, 54, is accused of killing a 19-year-old woman in a spray of bullets and wounding two others in a North Tampa shooting spree in February 2010.

Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office

Andre Watkins, 54, is accused of killing a 19-year-old woman in a spray of bullets and wounding two others in a North Tampa shooting spree in February 2010.

TAMPA — On the night of Feb. 12, 2010, Andre Watkins became the target of a manhunt after deputies said he sprayed a north Tampa neighborhood with bullets in a rampage that left two men wounded and a young woman dead.

In the days after his capture, the residents of the Plantation subdivision of Carrollwood filled news accounts with stories of the neighbor they knew as "the crazy man," who paced his front yard with fury, stared daggers, yelled obscenities and, at times, brandished a gun.

Prosecutors released new documents Friday that offer clues into what may have been on Watkins' mind the night of the shooting, including a police report Watkins made nine days before the incident, in which he called himself a victim.

He said a man named Fred Watson, with whom he'd had an ongoing feud, walked up to him at a gas station and showed him a gun, saying, "Mess with me tonight and I'll put a cap in you."

Watkins called deputies repeatedly about the status of that report, speaking to them just hours before the shooting.

A detective tells of that last conversation in a memo. "I told him he had handled everything the right way to this point and he needed to continue to do so," Detective Wayne Bunton said.

Watkins' side of the conversation hasn't yet been made public. It was stricken from the reports released Friday, and won't likely be disclosed before trial. But he said something to Bunton that prompted the detective to give this response: "I told him then he shouldn't do anything that would make us shoot him."

• • •

Geovanni Suarez was driving his pickup truck around the subdivision that Friday about 6:30 p.m. when Watkins nearly sideswiped him, he told detectives. Suarez, like many other neighbors, had had previous run-ins with "the crazy man."

Three weeks earlier, Watkins had held up two bags of white powder, demanding to know the address of a person he said had sold it to him. He later heard Watkins had told people he wanted to kill the person who had sold him "fake cocaine."

On this Friday night, Watkins wore a fake mustache, Suarez told detectives. Watkins got into Suarez's truck and said, "Geo, I'm gonna need for you to take me somewhere."

Watkins held a gun.

Suarez started driving.

They wound up outside 10536 Chadbourne Drive, where two men and a young woman were in a car getting ready to go to McDonald's.

Suarez said Watkins got out of the truck, approached the car and started shooting. The two men ran and survived, but 19-year-old Alyssa Aracich died in the back seat. By all accounts, the bullet wasn't meant for her.

Watkins returned to the car, Suarez told detectives. Watkins wanted a ride back to his car. He also told Suarez this:

"You're lucky to be alive."

• • •

Two others were shot that night. Ariel Love, 27, on Brightside Drive opened the door. It was a man he didn't recognize.

That man shot him.

In a 911 call, a woman pleads with him to stay awake. She asks, "Do you know who shot you?"

Before lapsing into moans, a dazed voice in the background answered "no."

But his father knew Watkins.

Fred Watson was the alleged suspect in that report Watkins had filed that month. Watson told investigators he had been confronted at gunpoint by Watkins at least three times in the past few years. Watson said he did yard work for Watkins' mother.

"Everybody can tell you a story about this guy with these guns," Watson said, "shooting them off in the air, you know what I mean? He pulled a gun on a child. Little boy is walking his dog, and the dog pooped on his mother's grass and he pulled a gun on babies."

Deputies said Watkins then drove to a BP gas station at 5919 W Linebaugh Ave.

He opened the door for shopper Jeffrey Twiner, who told detectives what he witnessed.

"He actually looked really calm," Twiner said. "He didn't look like anything was wrong with him when I first walked up."

Twiner walked to the back of the convenience store while, he said, Watkins approached the store clerk, 57-year-old Akbar Alwani. "He started yelling at the clerk," Twiner said. "He pulled out an automatic pistol from his right jacket pocket, pointed it at the man and shot once."

Twiner hit the ground and never looked up. He heard the door's buzzer sound, which indicated the shooter had left.

• • •

Deputies stood on the corners of the Plantation subdivision clutching guns. They blocked streets and questioned witnesses, searching for the gunman. A chopper hovered.

Sheriff David Gee, in a news conference, told the public, "If we don't get our hands on him, there could be more violence tonight."

Meanwhile, Watkins' cell phone was giving off signals, leaving a trail that would eventually lead them after midnight to a gas station in Plant City.

Ritesh Shah attended to the man from behind the counter. Shah told detectives Watkins said he needed $5 worth of gas and paid for it all with quarters. Shah described Watkins' mood as "jolly." Watkins returned to his car, where deputies converged on him.

He awaits trial on charges including first-degree murder, kidnapping, attempted murder and armed burglary.

He faces the death penalty.

Documents detail killer's north Tampa shooting rampage 03/18/11 [Last modified: Friday, March 18, 2011 11:08pm]
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