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Ice cream man jailed for Thanksgiving Day shootings in Ruskin

Hillsborough County Sheriff David Gee said he doesn’t know why Keetley became fixated on the man Keetley called “Creeper,” Omar Bailon.

STEPHEN J. CODDINGTON | Times

Hillsborough County Sheriff David Gee said he doesn’t know why Keetley became fixated on the man Keetley called “Creeper,” Omar Bailon.

RUSKIN — For 10 months, the ice cream man waited for justice.

Michael Edward Keetley, 39, had been shot in the chest, leg and hand for a mere $12.

The thugs who did it were never caught. So Keetley began asking questions of his own.

On Thanksgiving, deputies say, he was ready for revenge. They say he pulled up to a Ruskin home with a gun and fake cop gear, ordered seven men to lie down on a porch and opened fire from right to left, hitting six.

Two died. All were innocent, deputies say.

Those who had attacked Keetley in January remain at large.

But on Thursday, the ice cream man went to jail.

• • •

On Ocean Mist Court, where Hillsborough County sheriff's deputies say Keetley sprayed the bullets, people loved the sight of his purple ice cream truck, which sometimes brought free treats. After he was robbed, people gave him money for medical bills. Even the mother of two men he is accused of killing once thought of him as a good guy.

Others saw a different side. Their stories fill court files in petitions for repeat violence injunctions.

Last year, Susan Camp says she got a call from a man who identified himself as a Ruskin sheriff and said he'd gotten complaints about someone driving drunk in her ice cream truck.

She recognized the voice of Keetley, who was new to the business and had previously talked to her about ice cream sales. She told him she was onto him, and they laughed, she said.

But then he got serious. He told her that if she didn't keep her truck out of his territory, he would burn it. In court documents, she said he called her repeatedly and put 10 signs on the road that said, Don't buy ice cream from the blue truck. She sells drugs from her truck and is a very bad, nasty person.

She said two similar signs advertised his own purple truck.

Camp filed an injunction petition and got in touch with two neighborhood families named in repeat violence cases connected to Keetley. They met at a Village Inn to trade tales of foul-mouthed, front-yard threats.

Like the time they said Keetley called a woman a "filthy whore" over his ice cream truck speakers.

And the time, a few days later, that Keetley accused that woman's teenage son of threatening his dog with a baseball bat.

Camp's attorney, Ron Young, contacted Tel Tech Systems with a subpoena for any calls made by Keetley through their "SpoofCard" product, which allows callers to disguise their identities. The company returned a recording of a man telling the teenage neighbor he was with the State Attorney's Office and wanted his mother's number.

One year later came a third allegation that Keetley posed as an official to do harm. It came from Sheriff David Gee, after a double murder.

• • •

In January, as Keetley underwent surgeries to repair his gunshot wounds, his father told the St. Petersburg Times he might never use his hands again.

He recovered to an extent, but became obsessed with finding his shooter, deputies said.

He was looking for a Hispanic man named "Creeper," he told people who spoke to deputies. He offered a $1,500 reward if someone would bring the man to him.

He told one person he had police badges and uniforms and wanted to kill the people who shot him, deputies said. He told another he met someone in a Publix parking lot to buy a gun.

He approached 605 Ocean Mist Court after 2 a.m. Thanksgiving morning, as people played cards on a porch, deputies said.

He wore something that said "Sheriff" — a shirt or a bullet-proof vest — and asked for ID. He asked for "Creeper." The men said they didn't know him.

He ordered the seven men to the ground and opened fire.

Juan Guitron, 28, stood up to look for his brother before he died, his mother said. His brother, Sergio, 22, also died.

Wounded were Richard Cantu, 31, Daniel Beltran, 24, Ramon Galan, 29, and Gonzalo Guevara, 28. A seventh man survived unscathed, because one of the others fell over him like a shield.

Investigators later heard from the people they said Keetley spoke with about vigilante justice. Deputies watched him from afar and eventually stopped the van they said was at the scene.

Inside it, they say, they found a gun, which Keetley wasn't allowed to have after his neighbor troubles. They arrested him for violation of an injunction. He posted bail but wasn't free long.

Investigators executed a search warrant on his home and found a notebook on his kitchen counter. Inside, deputies said, he wrote the address where he thought he'd find "Creeper."

Outside, deputies said they found a target he used for shooting practice — a car, riddled with bullet holes. One of the .45 caliber rounds matched one found under a dead man, a Florida Department of Law Enforcement analyst concluded.

A deputy visited a hospital where Guevara nursed a punctured lung Wednesday and presented a photo lineup.

Guevara didn't hesitate when he saw the face he had seen as he laid on his stomach. He was "2,000 percent sure.''

"I will never forget that face."

• • •

The man Keetley sought actually calls himself "Creep." He lives a few houses from the murder scene and his real name is Omar Bailon. Gee doesn't know how or why Keetley became fixated on him. He, too, is innocent in the January robbery.

Bailon had been friends with the Guitron brothers since he was 5 or 6, friend Juan Hernandez said. They didn't give him up to the gunman. Bailon later learned he was why Keetley came.

"He was a mess," Hernandez said of his friend.

So are the other mourners, who have paused atop the porch to light candles to saints. Some want the death penalty. Others, life in prison.

"The truth is," said grieving mother Paz Quezada, "I would just like to have him in front of me. I'd like to be alone with him."

Times staff writers Danny Valentine, Justin George, Jared Leone and Stephanie Bolling and researcher John Martin and contributed to this report.

Ice cream man jailed for Thanksgiving Day shootings in Ruskin 12/02/10 [Last modified: Friday, December 3, 2010 1:57am]

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