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. Jameis Winston's hardest lesson: He can't always save the day


    TAMPA — Ever wonder what in the world goes through Jameis Winston's mind when he tries to fit the ball in a keyhole as he is being dragged to the turf like he was during Thursday night's 12-8 preseason win over the Jaguars?

    JACKSONVILLE, FL - AUGUST 17:  Jameis Winston #3 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers attempts a pass during a preseason game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at EverBank Field on August 17, 2017 in Jacksonville, Florida.  (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images) 700069805
  2. Despite pain, woman in court faces ex-boyfriend who lit her on fire



    Sheron Pasco sat in the wheelchair as her mother pushed it toward the man in the orange jail suit.

    Sheron Pasco, 39, right, along with her mother Tranda Webb, 62, pose for a photograph Wednesday, at their home in Port Richey. Pasco's former boyfriend John Riggins doused Pasco with gasoline and set her on fire after an argument last year.. CHRIS URSO   |   Times

  3. Florida starter under center still under wraps


    GAINESVILLE — With two weeks before Florida opens its season against Michigan, the Gators' three-way quarterback battle remains wide open.

    Luke Del Rio, right, is in the mix to start against Michigan in the season opener … as is Malik Zaire and Feleipe Franks.
  4. A sports rout on Wall Street


    NEW YORK — Sporting goods retailers can't shake their losing streak.

  5. Rick Kriseman picks Floribbean restaurant for Manhattan Casino

    Local Government

    ST. PETERSBURG— Mayor Rick Kriseman has chosen a controversial restaurant concept to occupy the Manhattan Casino, saying he made a decision 11 days before the mayoral primary because he didn't want politics to get in the way of progress in struggling Midtown.

    Former Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Vincent Jackson speaks during a Friday press conference announcing that the Callaloo Group will open a Floribbean restraurant in the historic Manhattan Casino in St. Petersburg's Midtown neighborhood. Some residents were upset with Mayor Rick Kriseman's choice, saying it will speed up gentrification of the area. [EVE EDELHEIT   |   Times]