Monday, December 18, 2017
Public safety

Tarpon Springs police arrest Clearwater man in teen's shooting

TARPON SPRINGS — A dropped cellphone and a chatty suspect led police to an arrest in an attempted mugging Saturday night that ended with a teenager being shot.

Elvin Joel Velez Pacheco, 35, faces charges of attempted armed robbery and attempted murder.

Police found Velez Pacheco at his Clearwater home Monday evening. They say he had been talking about the shooting on Walton Avenue, near Tarpon Avenue.

About 9:30 p.m. Saturday, police say a man pointed a gun at 19-year-old Bradley Edward Perez and a 16-year-old girl. He motioned them to move toward a darkened driveway.

"Get in there," police say the gunman told the two teenagers. "Get in there."

Perez reached for the gun. It went off. Perez fell to the ground, shot through his left side, and the would-be robber ran.

But the shooter dropped his cellphone, which police say the girl used to call 911.

Later, the man went to see an acquaintance at the Riverside Apartments on Beckett Way. He flashed the gun, police said, and told the acquaintance, "This gun's for you, too."

Police used that witness' account to identify Velez Pacheco as the shooting suspect, along with information from Velez Pacheco's live-in girlfriend. She said Velez Pacheco confessed to her about the attempted robbery and shooting, and she confirmed the number to his lost cellphone.

Velez Pacheco told investigators Monday that he didn't know anything about the incident.

Police haven't recovered the weapon, which they believe is a .38-caliber chrome revolver.

Perez, the shooting victim, found out about the arrest Tuesday from a reporter.

"Oh my God," he said. "No way. Oh my gosh, that's crazy."

He looked at Velez Pacheco's booking photo.

"Yeah," he said, "that looks pretty much like him."

A certified nursing assistant, Perez has been recovering at his Tarpon Springs home after treatment at Bayfront Medical Center in St. Petersburg. On his left side, wounds where the bullet entered and exited mark the skin below his ribs.

But while he called it good news, the arrest didn't seem to change much for him. What happened to Perez, police say, appeared to be a random robbery by a man wanting cash.

"It could happen again," Perez said. "It could happen to anyone else."

And, according to state records, Velez Pacheco has been accused of a similar crime before.

In 2002, Tarpon Springs police arrested Velez Pacheco on charges of attempted armed robbery and possession of crack cocaine. Police say he brandished a BB gun near the same spot on Tarpon and Walton avenues. The most serious charges were dropped, but he was put on a year's probation for carrying a concealed weapon, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

In 2007, Hillsborough deputies booked him on misdemeanor charges of petty theft and possession of marijuana.

Over the years, Velez Pacheco also has encountered problems with driving without a valid license. He has given his name as Jorge Luis Perez, and state records also list him under Pachaeo Alvin Joel Velez.

Tuesday, he was being held in the Pinellas County Jail without bail.

Times researcher Natalie Watson contributed to this story. Stephanie Wang can be reached at (727) 445-4155 or [email protected]

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