Tuesday, July 17, 2018
Public safety

Tampa man calls neighbor over to car, fatally shoots him, police say

TAMPA — Matthew Downey and his wife were standing in an alley near their home at Westshore Yacht Club on Saturday night when a neighbor called them over to his car.

Then, a flash of gunfire. Moments later, the 57-year-old father of three was dead.

The shooter, Tampa police say, was Brian Baker, who lives in a condominium two doors down from Downey and his wife Susan at 5919 Bowen Daniel Drive.

Baker, who stayed at the scene, was arrested and booked on a charge of second-degree murder.

"I shot him," Baker, 57, told the first police officer on the scene, according to an arrest report. But he didn't say why, declining to make a statement after he was read his rights, the report says.

The two men knew each other, but detectives were still investigating what led to the shooting, said Tampa police spokesman Steve Hegarty.

Baker was in or near his car, parked in an alley near their condominium building at the gated yacht club community off West Shore Boulevard south of Gandy Boulevard. He called the couple over about 10:15, the report states.

Baker reached into the car, pulled out a firearm, pointed it at Downey and fired a number of times, the report says. Downey died at the scene.

Baker called 911 to report the shooting. He told the officer he shot Downey.

"The gun is in my car," he said, according to the report.

Nine .40-caliber shell casings were recovered at the scene.

Baker was held Monday in the Hillsborough County jail, his bail set at $250,000. He listed his occupation as self-employed salesman. Records show this is his first arrest in Florida.

In a brief phone interview Monday, Susan Downey declined to talk about the shooting, saying she didn't want to jeopardize the case against Baker. But Downey said her husband and Baker did not have a history of animosity.

"There was never a problem," she said. Her husband, she said, was president of the Westshore Yacht Club's homeowner association, "and did nothing but help everyone and the whole neighborhood out."

After the shooting, Downey held her husband until paramedics arrived.

"He died knowing that he was loved and in his wife's arms," she said.

Matthew Downey was born in Queens, N.Y., and moved to Florida about nine years ago from Cornwall, N.Y., according to an obituary posted online Monday. He attended the University of Maine, where he played cornerback on the school's football team. He was retired from the Local 1 Elevator Operators Union.

The obituary described him as a "jack of all trades" and the neighborhood's handyman. He enjoyed boating, fishing, golfing and bicycling with Susan every Sunday.

Other survivors include three daughters, Kaitlyn, Joanna and Shannon.

"He had a … magnetic personality with many warm friends," the obituary said. "Matt was and will always be adored by many."

Times senior news researcher John Martin contributed to this report.

 
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