TAMPA — Officer Vincent Leto heard a loud bang as he drove up a street Wednesday afternoon and saw four men — one carrying a 12-gauge shotgun — dashing from a house.
The sound was a gunshot, which wounded Buttercup, a 5-year-old, pit bull mix guarding her owner's truck at 3709 Idlewild Ave.
It was the lone injury in a robbery that Tampa police interrupted at the home. Alerted by a call about suspicious men wandering around N 36th Street and Deleuil Avenue, officers involved in a two-day sweep of felons and crackdown on crime were on the scene as it unfolded, and tracked down four suspects.
The attempted robbery began at 1:30 p.m., according to police.
Wash Dorsey, 49, said he was in his yard with a friend when a young man he knew, Maurice Benjamin, approached him.
Dorsey said Benjamin tried to distract him while three other men — Marcus M. Burton, Ronnie Savage Jr. and Echeva Stone — approached with weapons.
"When he pulled that gun, I ran," Dorsey said.
Then there was the blast. It left tiny pellet holes in Buttercup's right hind leg. Dorsey planned to take her to a veterinarian.
"I can't believe they shot my dog," Dorsey said. "Who knows what would have happened if I would have stayed out there?"
Police said the suspects made Dorsey's friend, 40-year-old Marshall Myrick, take off his shorts and hand over his wallet.
Dorsey ran inside his home and tried to close the door. He didn't have to fight long because police were already there.
"We spotted them on N 37th Street and followed them," said Officer Robbie McKendree.
Leto used his binoculars to get a closer look, but the men turned the corner onto Idlewild Avenue.
"It all happened immediately," McKendree said. "Within a matter of seconds."
Leto chased down the man with the shotgun in his car while McKendree chased down another on foot. Two others were found hiding by Officer Joe Beckers and his canine partner, Sgt. York. Police say they found two pistols and a shotgun.
Charges are pending against Burton, 20, of 13848 Azelea Circle Apt. 204; Benjamin, 19, of 3304 E Mohawk Ave.; Savage, 20, of 4306 N 36th St.; and Stone, 24, of 4313 Thonotosassa Ave.
This was the second painful incident in less than a year for Dorsey's family. He is the uncle of Jennifer Johnson, a Tampa mother who was found murdered in a Lakeland house in November. Police said she had called 911 from the trunk of her car, but no one was dispatched.
Johnson's ex-boyfriend, Vincent Brown, was charged with her murder and has a hearing June 21, said prosecutor Jalal Harb.
Authorities said the robbery is not connected to her murder.