RUSKIN — Last year, a man gave the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office a tip.
He said a crime victim had been talking about killing the attackers who robbed and shot him that January.
Sheriff's detectives didn't see a real threat. Neither the victim nor investigators even knew the robbers' identities, said sheriff's spokesman Larry McKinnon.
Then, on Nov. 25, a gunman opened fire on a Ruskin porch. Two people died, and four suffered injuries. Deputies identified the shooter as the January 2010 crime victim: ice cream vendor Michael Edward Keetley.
He was the man they had been warned about, according to a recently filed court record.
Wednesday, the Sheriff's Office stood by the way it handled the original tip.
Victims of violent crimes often make similar threats, McKinnon said. "We've all heard it before: 'I hope you catch them before I do.' "
He said the November shootings would have been difficult to predict because the men on the porch had nothing to do with Keetley's case.
Keetley was robbed and shot by four people as he headed home in his ice cream van. When months passed with no arrests, he started investigating the case himself.
Court records show his ex-girlfriend, Stacy Rogan, knew he was trying to find the people responsible. Questioned by a detective after the porch shootings, she said Keetley had asked her to report back if she saw a Hispanic male with the name "Creeper" tattooed on his arm.
The tipster also knew Keetley had been looking for a man nicknamed "Creeper."
Court records show Rogan told the detective that Keetley told her about a week before the shootings that he was meeting someone to buy a gun.
Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for Keetley, who was charged Dec. 2 with two counts of first-degree murder and four counts of attempted murder. His next court hearing is scheduled for May 11.
No one has ever been charged in the robbery believed to have started it all.
Times staff writers Dan Sullivan and Alexandra Zayas contributed to this report. Jessica Vander Velde can be reached at (813) 226-3433 or [email protected]