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Police identify suspects in Tampa apartments shooting that injured child, man

Latavia Ash, 3, lies in a hospital bed Tuesday, recovering from surgery to her knee. Tampa police say a gunman shot her as he chased a man through North Boulevard Homes.

Courtesy of Lashaun Kinlock

Latavia Ash, 3, lies in a hospital bed Tuesday, recovering from surgery to her knee. Tampa police say a gunman shot her as he chased a man through North Boulevard Homes.

TAMPA — She was playing in the dirt when the bullets started flying.

The little girl with the chubby cheeks knew nothing of the gunman's intentions.

She fell when the bullet struck her knee. She screamed in pain as the shooter chased his target, a 21-year-old man, through the apartment complex.

"He looked like he didn't even care," said the little girl's mother as young Latavia Ash lay in a hospital bed Tuesday.

Latavia, 3, is recovering from surgery. She'll survive but will have knee problems for the rest of her life, said her mother, Lashaun Kinlock.

Back at North Boulevard Homes, news of the shooting quickly spread. Everyone knew that a gunman had chased his target, firing as children played outside. A 3-year-old got caught by a bullet.

"Ya'll shouldn't be shooting when there's kids outside," said North Boulevard Homes resident India Couch, 22, a mother of five.

About a dozen kids usually play outside after school. They scatter in the sandy lots between two rows of apartments. They play kickball and make up games.

It's not that the neighbors don't feel bad for the man who was shot and wounded. But he was the target, they say.

"If you all are going through something, get them at the club," said Couch.

A judge issued two arrest warrants Tuesday — one for suspected gunman Robert Lee Fletcher, 21, and another for Mario Williams, 28, who authorities said drove the car.

Police say Fletcher chased Jerome Parks, 21, through the apartment complex in the 1500 block of W Union Street with a pistol, police said.

Parks ran in and out of his father's apartment with Fletcher on his heels and was shot several times, police say. Fletcher ran back into a waiting Buick LeSabre and the suspects sped away.

Police said Parks was taken to the hospital and was in good condition. Both men face charges of attempted second-degree murder and aggravated battery.

Tampa police did not release a motive. The circumstances surrounding the shooting are under investigation, said police spokeswoman Andrea Davis.

Both suspects have lengthy arrest records.

Williams has been convicted of aggravated battery on a law enforcement officer, possession of burglary tools and grand theft motor vehicle.

Fletcher has been convicted of marijuana possession, burglary, grand theft motor vehicle, burglary, criminal mischief and obstructing or opposing an officer without violence.

At the apartments, neighbor Juanita Jones, 27, saw the blood trickling down Latavia's leg Monday. It broke her heart and made her thankful her boys — ages 8, 6, 2 and 1 — were elsewhere that afternoon.

Jones stood by Latavia as the girl's mother took in what had happened. She looked lost, "out of it," Jones said.

Jones' eyes welled with tears as she spoke about the sweet little girl. "She is only 3," she said, shaking her head. "She's got her whole life in front of her."

Latavia went into surgery early Tuesday. She has fractured joints in her knee, according to her mother.

"I'm feeling kind of lost," Kinlock said.

Times staff writer Marissa Lang and news researcher Carolyn Edds contributed to this report. Jessica Vander Velde can be reached at (813) 226-3433 or jvandervelde@sptimes.com.

Police identify suspects in Tampa apartments shooting that injured child, man 09/27/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, September 27, 2011 10:19pm]
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