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Deputies shoot, kill suspect in Clearwater slayings

CLEARWATER — About 2:20 a.m. Saturday, three men were gunned down at a party.

Benjamin Andrew Kubes, 20, died at the scene. Ibrahim Sorie Kamara, 22, lay bleeding in a friend's arms before going to a hospital, where he died. Dennis Alphonse Miyawa, 20, was taken to a hospital with life-threatening injuries.

Hours later, another man would be dead.

About 4:20 p.m. Saturday, two undercover deputies from the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office shot and killed Alexander Blaine Epstein outside 665 Poinsettia Ave. in Clearwater Beach, where he had recently been staying.

Authorities said Epstein, 19, was the shooter from the party.

• • •

It began at 2201 Curtis Drive S, at a squat, white house with shutters and a tall fence at the edge of a quiet neighborhood near Oak Grove Middle School.

Epstein and another man showed up at a party there, officials say, looking for someone who was not there. But at some point, Epstein and one of the three victims got into a dispute.

"It appears to have been over a girl," said Cecilia Barreda, a spokeswoman for the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office.

A fight broke out. Epstein fired, taking down three people.

The man who arrived with Epstein was not involved, Barreda said, and cooperated with authorities.

• • •

At 6:30 in the morning, the doorbell rang.

Sanusie Saccoh got up, opened the door and saw two police officers with grim faces.

"They asked to come in," he said Saccoh. "They said they had bad news for me."

Hours earlier, his son, Ibrahim Kamara, and two other young men were gunned down at the party.

The shooter may have known the victims, officials said, though more details weren't available.

Parties at the house where the shootings happened were common, neighbors said, but they usually didn't get out of control. Not like this.

"They have parties at night, because the yard is always cluttered with junk and there's garbage pails that are full of stuff," said Brigitte Ho, 71. "They don't talk to us."

A group of young people crying outside the house and talking on cell phones Saturday morning wouldn't discuss the events.

Kubes' and Miyawa's families members couldn't be reached for comment.

• • •

Ibrahim Kamara didn't like fighting.

His family fled war-torn Sierra Leone in West Africa when Kamara was 10, settling into a new life in Clearwater. After escaping a civil conflict that killed thousands, violence was something he tried to defuse.

"When friends would fight, always, he was in the middle of that," his father said.

They wonder if he was trying to break up the fight Saturday and got caught in the gunfire. Kamara, who went by "Mo," was a rapper, musician and technology buff who liked to mix tracks. He had recorded a CD and recently played at a club. He was at the party with friends from the music circle, his sister said. Kamara went to Plumb Elementary, Oak Grove Middle and Largo High, where he graduated with a Bright Futures scholarship that he used to attend St. Petersburg College, his family said. He played club soccer for almost 10 years with a league in Dunedin and dabbled in basketball and computers.

In Clearwater, he worked for an agency escorting mentally disabled people around town to banks and movies, his family said.

"He would come to my house with clients," said his uncle, Martin Kamara. "I didn't know they were clients. I thought they were just his friends."

He attended classes at Pinellas Technical Education Centers and wanted to be an engineer.

"He was a good kid," said his uncle. "Very respectful. He just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time."

• • •

Around noon Saturday, deputies learned that Epstein might have been dropped off in Clearwater Beach.

Plainclothes and uniformed deputies canvassed the area and surrounded the house, watching it for hours.

They got help from the agency's homicide and narcotics units, as well as the U.S. Marshal's Service fugitive task force.

Eventually, Epstein came out and walked toward an undercover deputy's car outside the home.

The deputy prepared to attest Epstein, he pulled a gun, authorities said.

"When he approached the first undercover, he went for his gun," Barreda said.

The undercover deputy shot Epstein.

A wounded Epstein began staggering in the street, his gun in his hand.

A second undercover deputy ordered him to stop and drop the gun.

When he didn't, the deputy shot Epstein dead, according to the Sheriff's Office.

The scene attracted neighbors and gawkers who tried to peek at the crime scene.

Both deputies involved in the shooting will be placed on paid administrative leave while the incident is investigated.

Epstein had been previously arrested for possession of a firearm, possession of crack cocaine and disorderly conduct.

Stephanie Hayes can be reached at shayes@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8857. Kameel Stanley can be reached at kstanley@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8643.

Deputies shoot, kill suspect in Clearwater slayings 03/20/10 [Last modified: Sunday, March 21, 2010 1:09am]

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