Friday, December 15, 2017
Public safety

One dead, one hurt in Tarpon Springs shooting of homeless men

TARPON SPRINGS — A man was killed and another seriously injured in a shooting Monday afternoon in a wooded area about two blocks from the busy intersection of U.S. 19 and Tarpon Avenue.

Police received a 911 call about 2:30 p.m. from an employee at Florida Capital Bank, 710 E Tarpon Ave., about shots fired in a wooded area behind the bank. She said she saw a black man in red shorts and a white shirt running from the area and south on Walton Avenue.

Tarpon police searched the woods on foot and discovered two men they said were possibly transients. Both had been shot. The men, whom police did not identify Monday, were taken to Bayfront Health St. Petersburg, said Tarpon Springs police Capt. Jeffrey Young. The survivor, 54, had life-threatening injuries. The man who died was 56.

About a dozen police cars converged on the area. Several people gathered in the parking lot and under the shade trees near the E-Z Stop N Shop store. Among them was Brian Browder, 41, who said he had known the victims for several years.

The two men, both homeless, hung out in the area where they were shot and bought beer at the store, Browder said.

Browder, who has been homeless himself for nearly a year, said he used to give the men tacos and money whenever he could. Others at the scene described the victims as quiet men who stayed to themselves.

"They didn't bother nobody," said Alfonso Bowen of Tarpon Springs. "I just don't understand why anybody can hurt them."

Police said homeless people are known to live in the area.

Milad Mikhael, the convenience store owner, said the two victims often visited the store to purchase cheap cigars and beer, usually Natural Ice or Hurricane malt liquor. On Monday, one of them came in to buy cigars. Hours later, Mikhael heard the gunshots. Then police and ambulances arrived.

"Who shot homeless people?" Mikhael said Monday as he stared at the patrol cars.

Police could not locate the suspect, whose identity is not yet known. Anyone with information is asked to call the Tarpon Springs Police Detective Division at (727) 938-2840.

Times staff photographer Douglas R. Clifford and staff writer Curtis Krueger contributed to this report. Contact Laura C. Morel at [email protected] or (727)445-4157.

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