Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Neighbors puzzled by actions of Seffner man who was shot while carrying a fake rifle

SEFFNER — Neighbors often saw Gilbert Velez strolling down his street between the Eliza Varnes subdivision and the hustle and bustle of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.

But none could say why he took a walk Thursday toward the Wal-Mart on MLK Boulevard and Mango Road with a toy rifle in hand — a walk that ended when the 56-year-old was shot by a deputy.

"He's been living around here for three years," said Leo Watts, 52, a neighbor. "He never did anything like this before."

At 6:20 p.m., bystanders called 911 to report a man walking through the Wal-Mart parking lot with an assault rifle.

Deputy Ricco Palermo arrived on the scene first, according to the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office. He told Velez of 1811 S Oak St. to lower the weapon, but Velez turned toward Palermo, pointing the rifle instead, said Debbie Carter, a sheriff's spokeswoman.

That drew a swift reaction from Palermo, who shot Velez in the stomach.

Rescuers took Velez by helicopter to Tampa General Hospital, where he remained in critical condition Friday, said Carter.

Neighbors said Velez shared his home with tenants who paid him rent.

On Friday, children's bikes lay in the yard behind a chained and padlocked gate.

"When he first got the (toy) gun, he told me to come over and try it out," said Conroy Cadore, 49, another neighbor. "He said he got it to play with, you know, for the kids."

The Airsoft gun shot little round plastic balls and cost Velez $400, he said.

Cadore said he thinks Velez understood the officer's commands, and he wondered why Velez took the fake gun off his property.

"That man spoke good English," he said. "And in this day and age, everybody knows you just don't do something like this."

Ten-year veteran Palermo, 36, has been placed on administrative assignment until the investigation is complete, said Chief Deputy Jose Docobo.

Carter said none of the evidence suggests that Velez was trying to be shot by a deputy.

Robbyn Mitchell can be reached at (813) 226-3373 or

Neighbors puzzled by actions of Seffner man who was shot while carrying a fake rifle 03/27/09 [Last modified: Friday, March 27, 2009 11:17pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Gov. Rick Scott could soon be the all-time king of line-item veto


    2016: $256,144,027

    2015: $461,387,164

    2014: $68,850,121

    2013: $367,950,394

    2012: $142,752,177

    2011: $615,347,550

    Only once has Scott used the line-item veto sparingly. That was in 2014, the year he ran for re-election, when he removed a paltry $69 million from the budget.

    Gov. Rick Scott waves a veto pen at The Villages in 2011.
  2. Rays morning after: An up-and down day for Jose De Leon


    Rays RHP Jose De Leon had a busy Monday - getting called up to join the Rays for the first time and making his way from Pawtucket, R.I., to Boston and the flying to Texas, working 2 2/3 eventful innings to get the W in the 10-8 victory over the Rangers, and then getting optioned back to Triple-A.

  3. White House communications director Dubke steps down


    WASHINGTON — Mike Dubke, White House communications director, has resigned in what could be the start of a series of changes to President Donald Trump's senior staff.

    President Donald Trump speaks at the Memorial Amphitheater in Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va., Monday, May 29, 2017, during a Memorial Day ceremony. [Associated Press]
  4. Trump pays somber tribute to fallen troops on Memorial Day


    ARLINGTON, Va. — President Donald Trump expressed the nation's "boundless" gratitude for the ultimate sacrifice paid by Americans defending the United States, dedicating his first Memorial Day address as commander in chief to a top Cabinet secretary and two other families who lost loved ones.

    Brittany Jacobs, left, watches as her 6-year-old son Christian Jacobs meets President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence in Section 60 of Arlington National Cemetery, Monday, May 29, 2017, in Arlington, Va. Jacobs father, Marine Sgt. Christopher Jacobs, was killed in 2011. [Associated Press]
  5. Florida education news: Budgets, discipline, charter schools and more


    BUDGETING: Florida school district officials keep a close eye on their spending plans as they await word on the Legislature's budget. Gov. Rick Scott