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Gawkers line up at Lacy crime scene, disturbing residents still shaken by standoff

Sandra Snead walks Onyx about 7:30 a.m. most days before driving her grandkids to school.

CHERIE DIEZ | Times

Sandra Snead walks Onyx about 7:30 a.m. most days before driving her grandkids to school.

ST. PETERSBURG — There was a time when Sandra Snead didn't bother to change out of her pajamas before taking her toy poodle, Onyx, for his early morning walk. At home, her front door was often unlocked.

That changed on Jan. 24.

That day, police cars, armored vehicles and ambulances converged on her neighborhood. The sound of gunfire echoed through the air. In the end, a fugitive and two police officers were dead, and the house of horror at 3734 28th Ave. S was wiped off the map.

The gawkers began to arrive the next day — in trucks, cars and SUVs — a steady stream of the curious straining to see a crime scene that had been reduced to an empty lot of sand.

"I wish I could have charged admission. I couldn't even get out of my yard," recalled Snead, 55, a retired postal clerk who has lived in the neighborhood 20 years.

"It kind of makes you kind of uneasy," she said of the unrelenting scrutiny.

Two houses from where neighbor Hydra Lacy shot and killed two police officers, Sylvia Williams, 37, a health care worker, said she is investing in an "iron" door and even thinking of getting a gun. "It just makes you think about it for safety reasons," said Williams, who has young son.

"Just a week before, I was telling my friend that I live in a nice neighborhood with no problems. Then something like this happens."

Before, Snead said, few people drove down this block, where 38th Street forms a T at 28th Avenue S. Nearly two weeks later, though, people continue to cruise through the Perry Bayview neighborhood, turning around in driveways and sometimes coming out of vehicles to stand and stare at the now-vacant lot where the shootings occurred. Those who live here want their neighborhood back.

"We're trying to get things back to normal," said Emma Walker, who lives several blocks away and is president of the Perry Bayview Neighborhood Association. The neighborhood is like many in the city, she said, with about 200 homes occupied mainly by working and middle class people.

Recently residents helped build a new playground with KaBOOM!, a national nonprofit organization. At the end of the block where the tragedy occurred, mountains of dirt rise from construction of a retention pond that's part of the extensive Clam Bayou project.

Walker said Perry Bayview residents are just as "shocked and hurt" by the shootings as the rest of the city and are donating $150 to the officers' memorial funds. "I'm hoping people don't get the wrong impression. It's a good neighborhood," she said.

For some residents, though, images of the dreadful day are difficult to forget. Williams, the young mother, was alerted to the unfolding drama by a neighbor. Police ordered her to stay put, she said.

"The officer said to stay down on the floor on the west end," on the opposite side of the shooting, she said. With electricity turned off in the neighborhood most of the day, she and 9-year-old Rontonio made do with cold pork chops. "And Reese's," her son added happily.

At the corner of 28 Avenue S and 38th Street, her uncle, John Williams, 64, a landscaper, also was captive in his home. At one point he ventured out into his driveway and spotted police officers huddling with rifles behind trees and between houses. Later, a SWAT team ran through his property.

"It was a war zone. I've never seen anything like it," he said.

The steady caravan of vehicles has slowed in recent days, Williams said. "A lot of people can't believe they actually tore the house down. A lot of people just want to see for themselves," he said.

Williams said demolition and removal of the Lacy house, which was badly damaged in Lacy's violent standoff with law enforcement, continued until 1:30 or 2:30 the night after the shooting. "Then the next morning, they brought in new dirt. They brought in dump trucks and more dump trucks," he said.

Snead was hurrying back to her house with her dog the morning of the shooting when she came face to face with two officers running between her and her neighbor's homes. They were pointing rifles.

She froze, house keys in one hand, little Onyx in the other.

The day's events remain fresh in her mind. "It's terrifying to even think of it," she said in her living room last week. "I used to sit here with my door open."

And she no longer leaves home in pajamas.

"Everything is different now," she said.

Walker is confident things will return to normal. "I know it's going to take some time," she said.

Waveney Ann Moore can be reached at wmoore@sptimes.com or (727) 892-2283. Kameel Stanley can be reached at kstanley@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8643.

Gawkers line up at Lacy crime scene, disturbing residents still shaken by standoff 02/05/11 [Last modified: Saturday, February 5, 2011 3:30am]
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