Saturday, December 16, 2017
Public safety

Tampa police say shooting in store wasn't self-defense but hid a homicide

TAMPA — It seemed a classic case of self-defense.

A 16-year-old walked into Baker's Mini Mart on Armenia Avenue and pointed a gun at store owner Taquanda Baker, she told police.

Baker said she whipped out her own gun, shooting once at the ground and a second time at the teenager's chest.

The teen, Quintavius Moore, died. And no one was charged — until Monday.

That's because that store owner's story isn't true, Tampa police Chief Jane Castor said.

Baker, 31, likely lied in an effort to protect the shooter, police said. They believe he's the father of one of her children.

Police aren't certain of his name but provided two photos of him Monday. They call him a "person of interest" and say they want to talk to him.

Baker's tale started to unravel about 24 hours after the March 26 shooting, but in the beginning, she seemed believable.

About 11:30 a.m., when Baker ran into the street and flagged down Officer Irene Thomas, saying she had just shot a would-be robber, the officer thought Baker was a victim.

The store owner told police that Moore had walked into the mini mart about 10:45 a.m. and asked for change for a bill. He returned 30 minutes later, armed with a handgun and pointing it at her, she said.

Baker said she drew her own gun and accidentally fired one round into the ground, then another at the armed suspect.

She even stood in front of a news camera, speaking publicly about the attack.

"He just stumbled back and he fell on the floor," she told Bay News 9 outside her store.

But forensic evidence, witness statements and surveillance video from outside the mini mart conflicted with her statement, police said Monday, without elaborating.

They believe Baker arrived at her store nine minutes after the first 911 call and fired only the shot into the ground.

Baker was arrested about 12:30 p.m. Monday at police headquarters. She has been charged with shooting into an occupied dwelling, fabricating and tampering with physical evidence and giving a false report to a law enforcement officer. Those charges, which include two felonies, are the most serious against her as an adult in the state, Florida Department of Law Enforcement records show. She has been convicted previously of two misdemeanors — petty theft and probation violation — and a third of obstructing an officer was dismissed, the records show.

Police say her lies in March have made the investigation more difficult and may have compromised it. "Everyone knows that in a homicide investigation, it's those first few hours that are valuable," Castor said.

Moore's family said that Baker's lies are upsetting. "It's very hard for me to believe that, as a mother, you could make this up about someone else's child," said Moore's mother, Washeta Chatman. "It's very hurtful."

Though the investigation has shifted, it hasn't exonerated Moore. Police don't know why the teen was shot. A second gun was found at the scene, Castor said. Moore didn't have a spotless record. His mother said he was "defiant" and wasn't attending school.

State records show that he had been arrested in November on a misdemeanor charge of criminal mischief, causing property damage between $200 and $1,000. But Moore's family can't imagine he'd commit an armed robbery.

"I knew he was no angel," Chatman said. "But I knew this was out of character for him."

He loved his family and being a disc jockey. "He was my son, and I love my son," Chatman said.

Times news researcher John Martin contributed to this report.

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