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Four teenagers wounded in shooting in Progress Village

TAMPA — "Fight! Fight! Fight!" was all Annie Brown heard Wednesday afternoon as she cleaned up her yard on Bahia Avenue in Progress Village.

Moments later, she saw a bunch of teenagers tearing up her block toward S 82nd Street to join the melee.

"All I saw was the children running, but I didn't go up there," Brown said.

About an hour later, four teenagers involved in that dispute were shot in a hail of rifle fire in the 8300 block of Allamanda Avenue, Hillsborough County sheriff's deputies said.

"They came running to here for protection," said Brown, a 75-year-old grandmother.

The injured boys — Elijah Anderson Jr., 13, Quadarrius Brown, 16, Michael Simpson, 16, and Preston Young, 16 — ran to Brown's house and waited in her living room for paramedics to arrive.

A 16-year-old Spoto High School student who was at the fight and shooting said it all started with a petty argument.

The fight broke out at 1:30 p.m., he said. Later, as a group of a dozen or more teens — including girls — walked down Allamanda Avenue, two cars pulled up and someone opened fire on the group.

The boy said he and a girl took off running but tripped in unkempt grass. They stayed on the ground until the shooters drove away.

The victims were shot while trying to hop a fence into Brown's back yard, the student said.

"They pointed the gun down at us in the grass but the bullets went over our heads," he said. "They just would not stop shooting."

Brown, Simpson and Young all attend Spoto, he said. Anderson goes to Giunta Middle School.

The 16-year-old said his friends were shot in the hand, shoulder, side and the back of the leg. He is not being named by the Times because he saw the shooting and the shooters are still at large.

None of the victims' injuries were life-threatening, sheriff's spokesman Larry McKinnon said. Except for Anderson, who was released, the boys were in stable condition late Wednesday at Tampa General Hospital.

Anderson was doing fine Wednesday night, his father, Eli Anderson, said.

His son had gotten home from school and was walking up the street to buy candy from a neighbor when a car came up and a gun barrel slipped out the window, Anderson said.

"I had so many calls," he said. "I had about 20 calls about Elijah."

He said his son was in school when the fight broke out earlier in the day and he was simply walking in the wrong place at the wrong time.

"I think the bullet went in his back and exited out of his shoulder," Anderson said. The seventh- grader was released from the hospital Wednesday night.

School security will step up patrols at Spoto and Giunta today to "stay ahead of the curve" and make sure that nothing going on the neighborhood spills over into the school, McKinnon said.

The fight and shooting are part of an ongoing feud that spawned arguments over the past two days, deputies said. They were still searching late Wednesday for two teens who returned after the fight with a gun and shot at the group by the side of the road. Investigators are searching for a small, silver sedan used by the shooters.

Deputies are looking for Antonio J. Steadman, 25, who may be driving a silver Dodge Neon. He is a person of interest in the shooting and has warrants for a probation violation, according to McKinnon.

Deputies said he returned to Progress Village with two people and one of them shot a semiautomatic .22-caliber rifle at the teens.

Amy Logan heard nine or 10 distant pops — enough to make her think it couldn't be gunfire. She was inside her house down the street during the shooting but didn't even look outside because she figured it was BB gun.

"I didn't even know something was going on until my son called me and asked why the street was blocked off (in crime scene tape)," said Logan, a 32-year-old customer service representative.

Four homes were roped off for hours as crime scene investigators placed evidence markers at every shell casing. The yellow markers littered the gutter in front of the modest single-family homes. Most of the neighbors didn't stand around outside to talk to deputies or reporters.

"A lot of times, we'll have people that won't approach us to talk because in this neighborhood they've got a real strong indication to make them fearful of retaliation," McKinnon said. "But behind the scenes, we get phone calls and they help us develop leads. So it may not look like it, but we're getting great cooperation from the community."

Another witness, who is also a Spoto High student, said he was walking back with the group from Progress Village Park when the gunfire erupted. He took cover behind a large oak tree until the two cars were gone. A bullet grazed his knee, leaving a gash the width of a pencil.

"I ran, hit the gate, dove in to the grass and crawled behind a tree," he said. "(My friends) didn't manage to do that. They got hit."

Logan said fights aren't uncommon among the neighborhood's teenagers, many of whom who hang out in the grassy area near her house.

"The police come only if we call them," she said.

Logan said kids who gather there get into fights but she can't remember any shootings.

"Unfortunately in today's society we use guns to solve our issues," McKinnon said.

Robbyn Mitchell can be reached at (813) 226-3373 or rmitchell@sptimes.com.

Four teenagers wounded in shooting in Progress Village 03/31/10 [Last modified: Thursday, April 1, 2010 2:00pm]

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