PLANT CITY — A man sought for questioning in connection with a double homicide over the weekend was shot and injured by an assailant Monday night, according to Plant City police.
Rubin Brooks Jr., 47, was shot twice in the upper body just before 7:30 p.m. at 1704 E Alabama St., which records show was his last-known residence. His male attacker was on the loose Monday night.
Police believe the shooting was "retaliatory" because people in the neighborhood have been saying Brooks was somehow involved in the deaths of Faye Kitchen, 59, and Shannon "Fonko" Thomas, 33, said police spokesman Tray Towles.
Police discovered their bodies Saturday in a home at 506 E Ohio St., less than a mile from where Brooks was shot. Authorities have not yet revealed how the pair died or said who they believe is responsible.
"Everybody on the street is saying it's him," Towles said.
But Towles added police have not classified Brooks a suspect, only a "person of interest."
Brooks had just been released from prison in September, state records show. He had served a 2 1/2 year sentence on four convictions, including battery on a law enforcement officer.
Brooks was taken to Lakeland Regional Medical Center, where his injuries were not considered life-threatening.
On Monday afternoon, the victims' friends and relatives were searching for answers.
"Times are very perilous," said Kitchen's sister, Gwen McClain, 60. "People do wicked things."
Kitchen was a family friend, according to Thomas' mother, Patricia Haynes, 53, of Lakeland.
Now living in Poinciana, Thomas was visiting old pals in his hometown when he was killed.
A father of five with another on the way, Thomas got "caught up in the scene," Haynes said. "But despite what he did during his life, he was a good father."
Often covered in dirt as a child, Thomas sported grimy rings around his eyes and mouth. "Funky," his mom called him. He made the nickname his own, tattooing "Fonko" on his arm.
The last time Thomas' family heard from him, Haynes said, he wanted to stay in Plant City another night. That decision would prove fatal.
The slayings of Kitchen and Thomas were one of what police called two unrelated incidents that hit Plant City on Saturday.
A shooting nearby on E Laura Street led to the arrest of Abel Cruz Dimas, 18, of Lakeland.
He's accused of gunning down Laronia Fay Bowers and injuring Edward Eugene Mincy on Saturday in what may have been a "hit" gone wrong in a drug deal, according to an arrest affidavit.
Dimas remained in jail Monday without bail. Jail records list him as a gang member known as "Big Bird," though investigators have not labeled the shooting as gang-related, Towles said.
Bowers, 51, died after the shooting. Mincy, 59, remained in Lakeland Regional Hospital in critical but stable condition.
Neighbors called the area where the killings occurred improving but troubled. The bars that once roiled the neighborhood are gone, leaving quiet residential streets dotted with churches and a park with a brightly colored play structure.
But they say drugs still mar the small section of town. Towles acknowledged it as crime seen but not reported.
With the three deaths, Plant City has logged four homicides this year — "well within the trend" of the one or two killings it sees annually, Towles said.
Three of the victims had criminal pasts, though police did not say any previous crimes contributed to the deaths.
Bowers most recently pleaded guilty to prostitution charges over the summer. Kitchen had a history of arrests since 1971 on charges including theft and cocaine possession. She served several years in jail. Thomas served prison time starting in 1995 for cocaine possession, resisting arrest and battery on a law enforcement officer.
Monday, people remembered better sides of the victims.
Kitchen started going to church, recalled neighbor Sidney Williams, 55. She was tired of a life troubled by drugs.
About a month ago, Kitchen related a dream, he said: The devil chased her. "She knew she was in trouble."
Times staff writer Marissa Lang contributed to this story.