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Neighborhood feud claims another victim

Tiffany Washington moved into the seven-bedroom house on 28th Avenue S in Harbordale because of her large family.

WILLIE J. ALLEN JR. | Times

Tiffany Washington moved into the seven-bedroom house on 28th Avenue S in Harbordale because of her large family.

ST. PETERSBURG — Tiffany Washington is fed up.

First, gunmen sprayed bullets into the home she bought in February, forcing her family to scramble for shelter.

Afraid to stay home, the family temporarily moved out, only to be burglarized.

Then Monday afternoon, the very day Washington had moved her children back to the seven-bedroom house in the Harbordale neighborhood northeast of Lake Maggiore, her 15-year-old son Telvin Bell was shot as he walked home from a haircut.

Telvin, hit in the shoulder and buttocks, managed to stagger home, police said. He is recovering at Bayfront Medical Center.

What caused the drumbeat of harassment and attacks? A murder and a boiling feud that police say Washington and her family have little to do with.

"I don't feel safe," said Washington, 34. "I feel like we need to get out of that place."

By Tuesday evening, police had arrested two teenagers in connection with Telvin's shooting. Louis Smith, 13, was charged with attempted first-degree murder. Raymond Lewis, 18, was charged with being a principal to attempted first-degree murder.

Washington said her son would be "so happy" to hear of the arrests. "He's so angry. He's in so much pain," she said.

Homicide Sgt. Terrell Skinner said the motive for the shooting was a long-running feud between two groups of friends that erupted earlier this month in a homicide.

In one group is Lenorak Keels, 17, arrested earlier this month on charges he fired the fatal shot that killed Levaud Landers, 18, who hung out with a different group. Police say the two groups of teenagers don't have geographic affiliations, and the basis for their mutual hatred is unclear.

"It's just a group of kids who don't like each other," Skinner said.

Washington's family became involved March 15, when her daughter used a family car to drive her friend Keels to the 2400 block of Eighth Street S. Police say Keels shot and killed Landers after a brief argument. The two men had been involved in a personal dispute.

After the shooting, Washington's daughter and Keels drove back to her home. That night, someone opened fire on Washington's home from a car.

Police say they currently have no reason to believe that Washington's daughter and other family members are responsible for Landers' death. In fact, Skinner said that witnesses affiliated with the family helped authorities arrest Keels after the shooting.

Still, those involved in the feud don't make such distinctions, police say. The feuding teenagers believe Washington's family contributed to Landers' death.

"It's an inaccurate perception," Skinner said.

In response to the tensions, police have increased patrols and talked to neighborhood kids. They recently arrested a car full of young people who had several handguns. Police have even arrested Landers' older brother Latroun, 19, on a charge of carrying a concealed weapon, saying he had a handgun in pocket.

"This thing is continuing to fester, and we've been doing a number of different things in order to quell the violence," said police spokesman Bill Proffitt.

Washington said she moved to the neighborhood because it was one of the few places where she could buy a big house for her four sons and three daughters.

But she says the attacks have instilled fear in her children. After burglarizing the home, some local teenagers flaunted their theft, riding her son's dirt bike on the neighborhood streets, she said.

The latest attack left her son, a Riviera Middle School student, hospitalized and terrified.

Police say Telvin was walking home when he passed a green house where five people were sitting on the porch, and that he recognized several of them. Washington said one of the men said "Let's jump him." Another said: "No, let's just shoot him."

The men began chasing Telvin. Police say someone pulled out a large black revolver and fired. Telvin heard five or six shots, and he was hit twice. He managed to make it home, and someone called 911.

"These kids, it ain't like it was when we were growing up," Washington said. "We just had fistfights. Now we've got to bury kids every week."

Abhi Raghunathan can be reached at araghunathan@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8472.

Neighborhood feud claims another victim 03/25/08 [Last modified: Thursday, March 27, 2008 8:49pm]
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