Thursday, December 14, 2017
Public safety

St. Pete Beach, Treasure Island communities baffled by weekend shootings

UPDATE: Pinellas County deputies say they have arrested two men responsible for a pair of drive-by shootings on St. Petersburg Beach and Treasure Island, wounding one person.

Brian White strolled down Gulf Boulevard in Treasure Island, holding a lit cigar.

The New York resident was in town for a wedding and took a walk Monday afternoon to enjoy the cool, crisp weather.

When he found out that, just a few days before, a bullet had flown out of one car and hit another in the same block he was walking through, he couldn’t believe it.

"Really? A shooting?" he said. "That would be my last thought."

White’s reaction made sense in the backdrop of colorful vacation homes and beachfront resorts in an area not known for its violent crime. But authorities are investigating weekend shootings in St. Pete Beach and Treasure Island that left one man injured and a car with a shattered window. The shooter or shooters remain at large.

While baffling, city officials, residents and business representatives are hopeful the shootings are nothing more than one night gone awry.

"I was flabbergasted, naturally. It’s very unusual," said St. Pete Beach Mayor Alan Johnson. "It smells like kids driving around in a car doing dumb things. I’m hoping that’s what it was. But we’re still waiting."

The first report came about 11:50 p.m. Friday in the 10000 block of Gulf Boulevard. An Uber driver reported someone had thrown an object at her car, shattering a window. Treasure Island police later determined it was a bullet.

Less than half an hour later, 51-year-old Kurt Lang was walking with his cousin near the Beachcomber Resort at 6200 Gulf Blvd. in St. Pete Beach when he heard what he thought were firecrackers. Then, he realized he had been shot in the chest, according to the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office. Lang of Dallas was hospitalized with non-life-threatening injuries that investigators said came from a low-caliber round.

About an hour later, the Sheriff’s Office received another report of a white Chevy Impala — the same color car Lang and the Uber driver had reported — with four people inside and a man hanging out the window with what looked like a rifle.

As the first shot went off, Brigid Scannell, 53, was asleep in her Treasure Island home. She and her husband, and her in-laws in the front bedroom, didn’t hear a thing. They didn’t even know about the shooting until police showed up the next morning to ask if they could look at her home’s surveillance video, which turned out to be too dark to see anything.

"It’s scary, but I’m not scared because it’s atypical of the area," Scannell said. "I just figure it’s something random, and I hope it is."

Officers ended up finding surveillance video from a different home that shows what investigators believe was the car, a blur passing by a driveway.

About 2½ miles south, Bob Sauerwine said he felt similarly to Scannell. It was jarring to Sauerwine, who manages the Postcard Inn on St. Pete Beach and has lived in Pinellas for more than 30 years. But by Monday, no guests had asked about it, and business was as usual.

"I think it’s a very isolated incident," he said.

Contact Kathryn Varn at (727) 893-8913 or [email protected] Follow @kathrynvarn.

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