TAMPA — A man accused of murder in a Christmas Day shooting has been released from jail after police determined that he didn't do it after all.
Witness statements that implicated another man, as well as a lack of physical evidence, prompted authorities to drop a second-degree murder charge against 19-year-old James Allen Wade. He was released from jail Jan. 9. Tampa police have since worked to expunge the arrest from Wade's criminal record.
"We're investigating how they got to James in the first place," said Wade's attorney, Gus Centrone. "He's got an alibi."
In fact, Wade's only connection to the crime was an association with someone who saw the shooting of 25-year-old Emmanuel Richardson, according to investigative documents Centrone provided to the Tampa Bay Times.
It happened at 11:30 a.m. Christmas Day in front of Richardson's home at 4603 N 26th St.
Kevin Williams, a friend of Richardson's, had been on the phone with a man who asked if Richardson might sell some marijuana to a second man, according to the documents. Richardson said he had some to sell. The pair drove to Richardson's home, where he negotiated the sale of a half ounce of marijuana for $120, according to a statement Williams gave police. Later, they returned after the man who bought the marijuana claimed he was given less than a half ounce.
Words were exchanged. A gun was pulled and Richardson was shot twice.
From an interview with Williams, detectives identified the man who arranged the drug deal. The man's profile in a law enforcement database listed Wade as an associate, according to the documents.
Based on that, detectives included a photo of Wade in a series of lineups that they showed to four people who were nearby when the shooting happened. Two indicated Wade as the shooter. Two others were unsure.
The four witnesses described the shooter as between 5 feet, 10 inches and 6 feet tall with a skinny build. Wade is 5 feet 9 and weighs 155 pounds.
Police obtained a probable cause affidavit from the Hillsborough County State Attorney's Office, which then requested an arrest warrant from Judge Samantha Ward. She granted it.
Wade was arrested the night of Dec. 28 while he was at work at a U.S. Postal Service facility near Tampa International Airport. He was booked into the Orient Road Jail and held without bail.
Wade's girlfriend told police she was with him at home until sometime between 1 and 2 p.m. the day of the shooting, something police were unable to verify. But when detectives investigated further, the case against Wade began to collapse.
A "monthly parking hang-tag distribution log" had been found lying on the ground near where the car in which the shooter arrived had been parked. Detectives traced the log to a man who said he had driven two other men to the drug deal, according to the documents.
Presented with a pair of photo lineups, the man did not pick Wade as the shooter. The man he did identify is being held in the Hillsborough County Jail on unrelated warrants. He has not been charged in Richardson's death.
Meanwhile, Wade was let go.
"It is extremely rare for the safeguards to fail," Tampa police spokeswoman Laura McElroy said. "But when it happened in this case, the detectives worked very quickly to release Mr. Wade, drop the charges, contact his employer and meet with his family to explain what happened."
Wade has returned to his job at the post office, Centrone said. A record of his murder charge has since disappeared from the Hillsborough jail log. Tampa police say they are continuing to investigate Richardson's death.
Contact Dan Sullivan at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 226-3386. Follow @TimesDan.