ST. PETERSBURG — Bradley Bolden, accused of fatally shooting a security officer at an apartment complex, seemed confused during his first court appearance Wednesday afternoon.
When Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge Thane Covert asked if he could afford an attorney, Bolden said yes. When Covert asked the same question again for confirmation, Bolden paused, hung his head, and then said no.
Covert appointed the Public Defender's Office to represent him.
Bolden's arrest brought some relief to relatives of the victim, Matthew Little. But Bolden's relatives described him as mentally and physically incapable of committing this crime because he has a low IQ.
Bolden, 20, was arrested on a charge of first-degree murder at 9:15 p.m Tuesday. Police clarified during a news conference Wednesday afternoon that Bolden said during questioning that he doesn't like police or security guards but stressed that they were still trying to determine a motive for the slaying.
During questioning, Bolden provided details about Little's slaying that would only have been known by the shooter, police said. He was able to tell them how many shots he fired and where Little's injuries were.
Bolden used a .45 caliber semi-automatic to kill Little, who was shot in the back of the head, according to an arrest affidavit.
"We were very happy to bring the case to a quick conclusion for the sake of officer Little's family and co-workers," said St. Petersburg police spokesman Mike Puetz.
Suzan Leyczek, Little's fiancee, received a call late Tuesday from police about the arrest. She said she and Little's parents were elated and sad at the news, which brought her some closure.
"I was surprised how much relief was there and how we felt," Leyczek, 27, said. "But at the same time, then it sinks in. Even though they have someone, it's never going to bring Mathew back."
She said residents in the area of the shooting would probably feel safer knowing police made an arrest in Little's killing.
But the feelings haven't finished sinking in, and she said an arrest means there will be trial to go through.
"It kind of makes it worse. You're staring at the person that last saw Mathew alive," she said, crying. "I don't know if I actually want to do that."
Little, 26, of Brandon had spent the past two years working for Critical Intervention Services, a private security firm in Largo. His usual beat was around the University of South Florida in Tampa.
But Sunday night he was sent to work the night shift in St. Petersburg.
The company was shorthanded after 30 officers reported for military training.
Little parked his patrol car inside the Mariner's Pointe Apartment complex at 1175 Pinellas Point Drive S around 1 a.m. Monday. He told dispatch he was going out on foot patrol.
Then gunshots were reported to police at 1:07 a.m.
St. Petersburg officers searched the area but found nothing and left at 1:51 a.m. They returned when Little failed to check in. Police found his body at 2:09 a.m.
He was lying dead by the pool, between two vehicles. His gun was missing. Multiple gunshots had been fired, police said, and Litttle had been shot above his bullet-resistant vest.
Earlier Tuesday, police said they received several tips linking Bolden to the slaying.
He was also identified by a witness who had seen him run from the complex right after the shooting, carrying two handguns.
It was 44 hours later when police caught up with Bolden. They said they arrested him in the 1300 block of 66th Avenue S, just north of the sprawling, 368-unit complex. Bolden didn't resist, police said.
Bolden, whose address was listed as 6701 21st St. S, was not a resident of the complex. Bolden has never been convicted of a felony in Florida, records show.
He was taken to police headquarters and later Tuesday night admitted that he had shot the security officer, police said.
Bolden's aunt said she believes Bolden was framed by people wanting to collect the reward money.
"The atrociousness of the crime," said Jackie Gilliam, Bolden's aunt and guardian. "He doesn't have the mental or the physical capability to even do anything like that. Everyone knows he's not that kind of kid."
She said Bolden has been diagnosed with a very low IQ and has always been in special education classes. He was taking culinary classes at an institute for students with similar learning disabilities, she said.
She said Bolden sometimes hangs out with friends at the apartment complex where Little was shot, but Sunday night he was at his grandparent's house on the other side of town. He didn't know how to drive, she said, and didn't have friends with cars.
"He didn't do it. They got the wrong kid," Gilliam said.
Neighbors also seemed surprised to hear Bolden was the accused killer, describing him as polite if a little strange.
Latrece Washington, 30, said Bolden would often stop by her driveway basketball hoop to shoot one or two baskets with her kids.
"He really wasn't a bad kid to me," Washington said, though she noted that he was often seen walking down the street talking or rapping to himself.
Michele Bemo, 41, said Bolden used to play with her daughter when the two were about 6 or 7 years old.
"It seemed like a nice family they had over there," she said.
As Bolden got older, noticed him talking to himself, seeming "out of it."
"It was kind of strange," she said.
Detectives were still searching the apartment complex and surrounding area early Wednesday morning, a police spokesman said, looking for two weapons: the gun police say he used to kill Little and the gun he stole from Little.
This was to be a life-changing year for Little.
He had made the final cut to be selected as a Hillsborough County sheriff's cadet. He was also planning to marry his fiancée in November. He was a graduate of Sarasota High School and the University of South Florida.
Little's security firm and other donors offered a $15,000 reward for information leading to the capture and conviction in the case.
Police did not disclose what role the reward played in making an arrest or if anyone will receive it.
CIS stepped up its patrols of Mariner's Pointe after losing one of their own. Little was a popular officer remembered by colleagues for his ability to calm tense situations.
"I guess you could say it was his aura," said his supervisor, Cpl. Ricky Vargas. "Even when there's swearing and negativity all around, he came in with a sense of calm.
"You hear about good cop, bad cop. He was always angel cop. The calm one."
A memorial service for Little will be held May 28 at Twin Lakes Park in his hometown, Sarasota.
Jamal Thalji can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8472.