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St. Petersburg police arrest 19-year-old in shooting of bystander at fight

ST. PETERSBURG — The teenager who was shot outside a recreation center in Childs Park Tuesday night was running away from a fight that was sparked by a feud between two other teens, police said.

Jawuan Emmanual Holloway, 16, was hospitalized with two bullet wounds. The 11th-grader who attends Life Skills Center is expected to fully recover.

Police say 19-year-old Rayni Adams fired shots into a crowd that had gathered during the fight. Officers arrested him early Wednesday evening.

Adams of 1375 Yale St. was charged with two counts aggravated assault. He was being held at the Pinellas County Jail Wednesday night in lieu of $20,000 bail. More charges may be pending, police said.

Police could not say for sure if Adams' bullets hit Holloway.

"There may have been another person in the crowd shooting, too, is what we're being told," St. Petersburg police spokesman Bill Proffitt said.

Tuesday's fight broke out just after dark in the parking lot of the recreation center at 4301 13th Ave. S. A group of teens and young men surrounded the melee, police said.

When one of the teens appeared to be losing, Adams pulled out a handgun and intentionally fired several shots into the crowd, police said.

Holloway was in a crowd of bystanders trying to flee the gunfire when he was struck in the upper body by a bullet and grazed by another, police said.

The shooting comes just weeks after 8-year-old Paris Whitehead-Hamilton was shot to death as gunmen sprayed her Preston Avenue home with semiautomatic weapons. Three teenagers have been arrested in connection with the shooting, but police suspect more people are involved.

Two days before the Childs Park shooting, a Lexus was found peppered with bullet holes from semiautomatic gunfire in an 18th Avenue S church parking lot after an apparent chase that prompted reports of gunfire in at least four locations in the city. It's unclear if teenagers were involved.

City and community leaders say this latest incident of violence involving children in St. Petersburg should spark outrage among residents and prompt renewed interest in a march against violence on Saturday.

"What I hope and pray comes of this is that people will start getting more involved," said St. Petersburg City Council member Wengay Newton, who represents the area where the shootings have occurred. "I'm a true believer that these crimes exist because people allow them to."

St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker, who plans to participate in Saturday's march, said he is working with police on a plan to combat illegal guns. He hopes to announce the plan soon.

"There are a lot of people who want to help," Baker said. "I am committed to helping the community get these guns out of these kids' hands."

Newton and St. Petersburg NAACP president Ray Tampa went to the scene of the latest shooting Tuesday night. They said police told them that Holloway was in stable condition and talking. They also said police were pursuing leads and hoping to make an arrest soon.

A police spokesman said they want to question several people in connection with Tuesday's shooting.

Several neighbors in the Childs Park area said they have seen teens fighting in the park for the past several weeks. Teenagers begin to congregate every day around 3 or 4 p.m. Often, fights break out between girls, neighbors said, and then the boys jump in.

"We have a lot of girl fights," said Marcos Santiago, a 40-year-old hotel security guard who lives across the street.

Santiago has two children, ages 7 and 4, and he fears for their safety every day, he said. He's considering installing bulletproof windows.

"It's disturbing having to keep my kids in the room in the back of the house for fear of a bullet going through my front window," he said.

The violence seems to follow a code of retaliation and silence among teenagers and gangs in the area, frustrating police and neighborhood leaders.

Jermaine Mitchell, Holloway's 26-year-old brother and a teacher at Maximo Elementary School, confirmed that the teen would be fine. But he was frightened for those who hang out in the neighborhood.

"Kids these days don't fight anymore," he said. "In my day, you took pride in fighting and squashing somebody. Now your pride gets hurt and what you do is you go and shoot them."

Ray Adams, the suspect's grandfather, said he doesn't believe his grandson has a gun. In fact, he said he heard that he was trying to stop the fight.

"Here on the street they say he didn't do it," Ray Adams said when reached Wednesday night. "He has witnesses."

Rayni Adams has an adult and juvenile arrest record that includes charges of burglary, auto theft, arson, aggravated battery and marijuana possession.

Police ask anyone with information about any of the recent shootings to contact them, anonymously if necessary, at (727) 892-5000 or text (727) 420-8911.

Times staff writers Jamal Thalji, Kameel Stanley and researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report. Emily Nipps can be reached at nipps@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8452.

>>IF YOU GO

Community march

The St. Petersburg NAACP will hold a community march against violence Saturday. It will start at 10 a.m. at the Bartlett Park Recreation Center at 2000 Seventh St. S. The march will head west on 18th Avenue S, then turn north on 16th Street S, ending at Campbell Park.

On the Web

To read previous coverage of violence in St. Petersburg, go to links.tampabay.com.

St. Petersburg police arrest 19-year-old in shooting of bystander at fight 04/22/09 [Last modified: Friday, April 24, 2009 11:14am]
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