TAMPA — Robert Colvin felt a sense of dread when his neighbor Tyler Bardin got a gun.
For years, Bardin would argue with his mother’s boyfriend, Brian Vessel, at their Carrollwood apartment. Sometimes, Colvin said, Vessel would become physically abusive.
Within the past year or so, Colvin said, Bardin got a concealed-carry permit and a .32-caliber Smith & Wesson handgun.
"I said, ‘This ain’t gonna be no good, not with Brian’s temper when he’s drinking,’?" said Colvin, 68. "They had a fight before, but Tyler wasn’t carrying (a gun). He finally got one and I guess things came to a head last night."
A fight early Thursday would be their last. Tyler Bardin, 22, fatally shot Vessel outside the apartment, according to the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office.
Vessel had turned 46 a day earlier. He was a Hillsborough High graduate who filled his Facebook page with talk of God, President Trump and animals. He had also served prison time.
For hours, while deputies were unclear about Tyler Bardin’s whereabouts, he was hiding in the family’s apartment. He was taken into custody later Thursday morning while trying to flee, sheriff’s Col. Donna Lusczynski told reporters at a news conference. He was questioned but not charged. Investigators will try to determine if he acted in self-defense, she said.
Deputies responding to a call about a disturbance at the apartment at 3811 N Cortez Circle arrived about 1:45 a.m. to find Vessel lying outside the door of the upstairs unit, Lusczynski said. He’d been shot multiple times.
Demetrius Norfleet, who lives in an apartment downstairs, came home from his job as a chef at Skipper’s Smokehouse, opened a beer and sat down in his recliner to watch sports. He heard Vessel and Tyler Bardin begin to argue, he said. He couldn’t make out why.
That wasn’t surprising, Norfleet said. In the two years since Norfleet and his wife moved in, the two men argued regularly. Norfleet said they also heard Vessel and Bardin’s mother, Tish Bardin, argue often.
Norfleet said he went to bed about midnight and was awakened by Vessel’s raised voice.
"The boyfriend said, ‘You want some of me?’?" Norfleet said. "The next thing I know — pop, pop, pop. About three shots."
He heard Vessel moaning as he struggled to make it up the stairs and then Tish Bardin shouting for someone to call 911.
Lusczynski said deputies did a cursory search of the apartment, encountered a roughly 100-pound pit bull and secured the home while investigators sought a search warrant.
They later got information leading them to believe Bardin may still have been in the apartment and called a crisis negotiating team and the SWAT team. They started trying to contact him about 10 a.m.
Efforts to reach Bardin failed, Lusczynski said, but deputies could see curtains moving in a front bedroom. About 11:20 a.m., the complex shook with the concussion of a flash bang grenade. Lusczynski said later that the device was used to "establish contact" with Bardin.
About 25 minutes later, deputies saw Bardin running out the back door of the apartment.
A forensics team was still processing the scene Thursday afternoon. Lusczynski did not say whether the gun Bardin used was recovered. She said investigators found no weapon near Vessel to indicate he was armed at the time of the shooting. She did not know what they were arguing about.
"We’re currently in the process of investigating that and if potentially there were any self-defense issues and what were the exact circumstances," she said.
By Thursday afternoon, Tyler Bardin had an attorney: Ty Trayner, who has known the family for years.
Trayner wouldn’t say whether Bardin was acting in self-defense but said the son has watched Vessel victimize Tish Bardin for a long time.
"The only thing I’ll say is that Tyler did not want to move in with his mother at her condo, but he felt like he had to protect her," Trayner said. "She had been physically abused by this guy for a number of years."
Lusczynski said deputies had been called to the apartment previously for domestic disputes, but she did not provide details.
When reached by the Tampa Bay Times, Tish Bardin said she needed to confer with Trayner before speaking and did not call back.
Records show Vessel served several stints in prison between 1991 and 2013 for armed burglary, grand theft, trafficking in stolen property, criminal mischief, fleeing from law enforcement and driving without a valid license.
Tyler Bardin does not have a criminal record on Florida.
Colvin, the downstairs neighbor, said that Tish Bardin has lived in the apartment for about 26 years and that Tyler Bardin was a boy when she started dating Vessel.
"Brian would drink and the couple would argue," Colvin said. "He used to blacken her eye and everything. Tyler was seeing this all the time. He’d be out on his bicycle and wouldn’t come home."
Times senior news researchers John Martin and Caryn Baird contributed to this report. Contact Tony Marrero at [email protected] or (813) 226-3374. Follow @tmarrerotimes.