CLEARWATER — It started as a going-away party Saturday for a friend. It ended with three young men dead and another seriously wounded.
And, say some who knew the shooter, it was all about love.
In the end, Benjamin Andrew Kubes, 20, was killed at the party. Ibrahim Sorie Kamara, 22, died at a hospital. Dennis Alphonse Miyawa, 20, was taken to Bayfront Medical Center in St. Petersburg. Friends and a victim's relative said Sunday that Miyawa is expected to pull through.
The men were gunned down about 2:20 a.m. at 2201 Curtis Drive S by Alexander Blaine Epstein, police say. Two hours later, Epstein, 19, was shot dead by undercover deputies.
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Erica Kampouris, 20, threw the party for a friend who wasn't involved in the shooting, said her grandmother, Mary Ziegler-Cannon, who owns the home on Curtis Drive. Kampouris is attending St. Petersburg College, where she has a 4.0 grade point average, Ziegler-Cannon said.
"This wasn't a bunch of out-of-control kids doing bad things," said Benjamin Kubes' father, Mark, 46. "They're having a party for a friend that was moving away. Nobody did anything that would have warranted this."
Authorities say Epstein showed up at the party looking for someone who was not there, and that a dispute apparently began over a girl.
Mark Kubes said he heard Epstein was looking for his older son, Brian Kubes, 22, who had already left the party.
Epstein was "infatuated" with Brian Kubes' former girlfriend, Mark Kubes said.
"He had several times threatened my older son," Kubes said.
The Pinellas Sheriff's Office says an argument escalated to a fight. Epstein then shot the men.
"I don't know what would have happened if my older son had been there," Kubes said.
Laura Mason, who knew Epstein as a youngster, said he missed a lot of love in his life.
He had told her he really cared about this woman. "I think it was his first true love," Mason said.
Mark Kubes said his son Benjamin worked with him at his shop, which sells military firearms, parts and accessories.
Benjamin Kubes was born in Clearwater, went to Plumb Elementary and Oak Grove Middle schools. He dropped out of Clearwater High, his dad said, but got his GED.
"He was a compassionate human being," Kubes said. "He would do anything for anybody."
Kubes said he heard from his son Brian that Miyawa is going to survive.
"Dennis (Miyawa) was one of those kids that I had no concern about my kids being around. He's absolutely a polite young man," Kubes said. "I'm just thankful that it looks like he's going to pull through this."
Mason saw a different side of Epstein, who had been friends with her son, Andrew, now 20, since middle school.
Epstein, whose nickname was Ace, was sociable, she said. "I don't ever remember him being real moody," said Mason, 50. "He would get down, but not angry or crazy."
Epstein had a rough childhood, she said. And those problems seemed to spill into adulthood. He was trying to find work and finish high school. She took him in for a few weeks last year and this year.
"I thought he was doing better the last couple months," Mason said. "He was excited about getting a dealers license and selling cars and excited about making something of himself," she said.
Initially, he was upset the woman he cared about was seeing someone else, but seemed to accept it and move on, she said.
"He was a good kid and something snapped in him or something changed in him," Mason said. "I wish I'd been there because I could talk Ace out of anything."
About 4:20 p.m. Saturday, two undercover deputies from the Pinellas Sheriff's Office shot and killed Epstein outside 665 Poinsettia Ave. in Clearwater Beach, where he had recently been staying.
Times staff writer Kameel Stanley contributed to this report. Lorri Helfand can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 445 4155.