TAMPA — A fatal shooting turned Interstate 4 into a crime scene Saturday afternoon, snarling eastbound traffic near Interstate 75 into the night as law enforcement searched for clues to help find the man who authorities say drove off after firing from his car into another, killing a man from Orlando.
The victim was identified Sunday as Fred William Turner Jr., 47.
Hillsborough County Sheriff David Gee and an agency spokeswoman provided the following account of the shooting:
Just after 3 p.m., the victim called 911 to say he was being followed by a man with a gun as he drove in the area of N 50th Street and E Columbus Drive after leaving a store.
The victim did not know the man or why he was following him, he told dispatchers. Before he had called 911, the victim said, his pursuer had pulled up next to him, rolled down a window and brandished a semiautomatic handgun.
Turner drove onto I-4 and stayed on the phone with dispatchers as he headed to Orlando. As he approached the I-75 overpass, shots rang out and could be heard on the 911 call, Gee said. Turner pulled his green Ford Mustang over near the overpass and died there, Gee said. The shooter, who witnesses said drove a gray or silver Ford Taurus with tinted windows, drove off.
The 911 call will not be publicly released, the Sheriff's Office said Sunday morning.
The eastbound lanes were closed near I-75 at about 3:30 p.m., according to the Florida Highway Patrol. By Saturday evening the closure had stretched west to U.S. 301 as detectives scoured the roadway, which was reopened just before 11 p.m.
"It's going to be a slow, tedious search," Gee said.
The pursuit and shooting spanned the jurisdictions of the Sheriff's Office, Tampa police and the Florida Highway Patrol, and all three agencies searched Saturday for the shooter. Details were scarce, though, so law enforcement urged anyone who might have witnessed the chase and shooting, or any related event preceding the incident, to call Crime Stoppers of Tampa Bay toll-free at 1-800-873-8477.
"We know there were other cars in the area, and we believe there are other witness who may have seen parts of this," said Gee, whose agency will lead the homicide investigation. The Sheriff's Office wouldn't release a recording of the 911 call Saturday.
The victim's car came to rest not far from the scene of another mysterious highway shooting, Gee noted Saturday.
On a Sunday morning in March 2005, 49-year-old security guard David Neel was shot and killed as he drove south on I-75. The Wesley Chapel father and grandfather was headed to the Strawberry Festival in Plant City to help his family show cattle.
Neel was shot once in the chest, and his truck veered off the ramp onto eastbound I-4 and struck a tree. Sheriff's detectives have speculated that Neel, who was a cautious driver, was the victim of road rage, shot to death by a stranger angered by how slow he had been driving.
Will Hobson can be reached at (813) 226-3400 or [email protected]