Saturday, December 16, 2017
Public safety

Wounded man's son rescues family, shoots Kenneth City gunman dead, deputies say

KENNETH CITY — All the neighbors could hear were the women and children screaming. Then came the shooting.

About 7:30 p.m. Sunday, a man named Gjon Hila walked into a house at 4806 58th St. N, about a block from the Kenneth City Police Department.

Hila pulled a gun and shot 52-year-old Tonin Poti, and Poti's son-in-law, 38-year-old Gzim Rrgalla, wounding both men.

Elton Poti, 28, is Tonin Poti's son and lives next door.

He heard the commotion, ran to his father's house and shot Hila dead, according to Pinellas County sheriff's deputies.

The elder Poti and Rrgalla were both taken to Bayfront Medical Center with injuries that authorities described as life-threatening.

Why Hila shot the two men remains under investigation.

He had no prior criminal record in Florida. Property records show he owns a number of rental homes around Pinellas County.

"They are known to each other," sheriff's spokeswoman Cecilia Barreda said. "It was some sort of ongoing family dispute."

However, she said, Hila is not directly related to the men he shot.

She offered no more details, citing the continuing investigation.

On Monday morning, at the house where the shooting occurred, everyone was cleaning up the blood and shattered glass from the night before but no one wanted to talk about what happened beyond calling Elton Poti "a family hero."

The shooting occurred about a block from the Kenneth City Police Department.

Despite that proximity, the Sheriff's Office is taking the lead on the case at the request of Kenneth City officials.

Neighbors say the area is generally quiet and close-knit, and they often saw Tonin Poti's wife babysitting her grandchildren at the house.

On Sunday night, though, they heard shouting and a lot more.

"There was a lot of yelling going on. There was an argument, and then it died down, and then you could hear the women and children screaming," neighbor Barbara Noble said. "It was horrible. Horrible."

"All I heard was screaming," said Pamela Corcino, who had just arrived to visit her mother across the street. "My sister told me, 'Get in here, they're shooting!' "

This is not the family's first brush with tragedy.

In 2000, Gzim Rrgalla and Kozeta Nikaj were driving a Ford Explorer that was hit by a Buick Skylark that ran a red light. The crash killed their 5-week-old daughter, Kristina Rrgalla.

Researcher Natalie Watson contributed to this story. Craig Pittman can be reached at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter at @craigtimes.

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