House full of children in St. Petersburg raked by gunfire

ST. PETERSBURG — It started with a man shot to death from behind. The gunman was supposed to be watching six children that night, police said. Instead, he left them alone so he could rob the victim.

Someone, though, wanted revenge for their friend's murder. What happened next was reminiscent of when a young victim lost her life on one of St. Petersburg's worst days.

Unknown assailants raked a house — with those six children inside — with semi-automatic rifles early Thursday morning, St. Petersburg police said.

Nine rounds penetrated the house. The six children inside, ages 2 to 15, were not hit.

The city was not so fortunate two years ago when 8-year-old Paris Whitehead-Hamilton was shot and killed. She died, police said, after being hit by just one of the 50 bullets pumped into her home by a neighborhood gang seeking revenge on another.

"It was eerily similar in many ways to the Paris Hamilton case," police spokesman Mike Puetz said of Thursday's shooting.

Detectives are still searching for whoever fired on the children. But they did arrest the man who they say started the conflict.

Dwayne M. Bailey, 25, was arrested on a charge of first-degree murder Thursday, hours after police said he shot and killed Marquell Burge, 30, then rifled through the dead man's pockets. Bailey was being held without bail at the Pinellas County Jail on Thursday night.

Bailey has done two prison stints. He was 17 when he first went to prison in 2003 to serve a year for grand theft auto. He was 20 when he went back in 2006 to serve five years for possession of cocaine and attempted robbery.

He was released from prison on Feb. 8.

Once out, though, Bailey found more trouble. He was arrested about 5 a.m. Wednesday on charges of driving without a license, fleeing police and leaving the scene of an accident, records show. The details of that arrest were not available.

Bailey was freed on $5,500 bail at 9 p.m. Wednesday.

Later that night a girlfriend dropped Bailey off at the home of his cousin at 1252 Eighth Ave. S. The cousin left the home at 12:30 a.m. Thursday.

She left Bailey to watch the six children who were staying there, police said.

The cousin was mother to some of the children and related to most of the others. Police did not identify Bailey's cousin or any of the children.

But Bailey left soon afterward.

It was about 2 a.m. when Bailey was next seen at the Ninth Street Pool Hall, 1149 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. St. S. The pool hall is a 10-minute walk from the home full of unattended kids.

Burge was standing behind the pool hall when Bailey shot him in the back, police said, then took something from his pockets. Police did not say what was taken.

Bailey covered part of his face with a cloth, police said, but three witnesses identified him.

"I think the way this guy was attacked outraged a few people," Puetz said.

Some sought revenge.

About 3:30 a.m., gunfire erupted at the house where Bailey had left the children, police said. Bailey's cousin hadn't yet returned home. Her 15-year-old niece, the oldest child in the house, called her aunt in a panic.

Bailey's cousin declined to comment Thursday. Police said she had gone clubbing when she left the children with Bailey.

An investigation is ongoing, and detectives would like to hear from anyone who knows anything about Burge's killing or the retaliatory shooting.

Anyone with information can call police at (727) 893-7780. Anonymous tipsters can call (727) 892-5000 or text police at (727) 420-8911.

Times researcher Shirl Kennedy and staff writer Ileana Morales contributed to this report. Jamal Thalji can be reached at thalji@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8472.

House full of children in St. Petersburg raked by gunfire 03/17/11 [Last modified: Friday, March 18, 2011 12:19am]

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