Tuesday, June 19, 2018
Public safety

Three people killed in Brooksville shooting

BROOKSVILLE — George Mason III spent a lot of time at the little cream-colored house at 820 Peach St.

His half-brother Gabriel "Bo" Taylor lived there with their mother Tracy Taylor and their 81-year-old grandmother, Jannie V. Taylor. So did Tracey's other son, Ralph Peyton.

"He was here every day," Donna Stanley, who lives across the street, said about Mason as she stood in the middle of the road Saturday morning. "He'd be here right now."

Instead, the 42-year-old Lutz man with a lengthy criminal record was in the hospital under police guard, accused of one of the most horrific shooting rampages in the city's history.

Police say that just before 9 p.m. Friday, Mason fatally shot Peyton, Jannie Taylor and Tarasha Yata Townsend, his 37-year-old girlfriend and mother of two of his daughters. Gabriel Taylor, 33, was critically wounded.

According to investigators, Mason chased Gabriel Taylor to the nearby corner of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Main Street and shot him multiple times with a 9 mm handgun. Almost in the same moment, Mason was struck by a Dodge pickup truck heading east on MLK.

Mason and Taylor were taken to Regional Medical Center Bayonet Point, where Taylor underwent surgery, Brooksville police Chief George Turner said. Taylor was in guarded condition Saturday night. Mason has a broken back, broken leg and a broken arm, Turner said. No condition was available.

Police plan to charge Mason with three murder counts and one count of attempted murder.

"There's only really one person who knows what the motive was and that's Mason, and he's not saying," Turner said. "He was just hellbent on a violent outrage."

A witness told police that an argument erupted between Peyton and Mason before Mason started firing. He was interviewed at the scene and in the hospital and admitted to the shooting, but didn't explain why, Turner said.

Turner said the witness — a 16-year old relative — said Mason shot Peyton first, then Townsend, who was outside at the time. She was lying in the street when police arrived. The witness said Mason shot Jannie Taylor and chased Gabriel Taylor across the street and then east on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.

The man driving the Dodge truck that hit Mason was cooperative, Turner said. He declined to release his name.

"It's a good thing the truck went by and took him out," Turner said. "It could have been a whole different story."

Several people who were gathered at the house Saturday morning declined to comment to reporters.

Neighbors said Mason, who grew up in Brooksville, went by the nickname "G-3." They said he didn't seem to have a violent streak when he visited the Peach Street home.

"He must have just snapped," said Linda Stanley, who lives two doors away.

Records show his father, George Mason Jr., still lives on Duke Street, also in the tightly-knit south Brooksville neighborhood. A woman at the house said the family had no comment.

"This is just a really emotional time right now," she said.

Townsend has family members who live on nearby School Street. Several people were gathered at the house Saturday morning, but a woman at the door told a Times reporter they needed time to grieve.

Mason's arrest record dates back to 1991. Florida records show he did four stints in state prison between 1992 and 2007 for cocaine and marijuana sales and possession, battery on a law enforcement officer, fleeing law enforcement, and possession of a firearm as a felon, among other crimes. He's been arrested twice in Florida since 2009, for resisting arrest and driving with a suspended license, records show.

Mason and Townsend lived in Lutz, and their daughters are both very young. Two of Townsend's daughters are teens.

"She was very kind, very soft-spoken, very sweet and she took very good care of her children," said her sister in law, Elizabeth Tillis Townsend.

In a photo posted on Facebook just a few hours before she died, Tarasha Townsend stands smiling in front of the immaculate two-story house on Oakhaven Court. She thanks someone who commented on how good she and her lawn looked.

Another post that day is an affirmation, its author unclear.

"I've been broke, paid, hungry, full, lied to and cheated on," it reads. "My name's been dragged through the dirt and I've picked it up and dusted it off. That's why I'm SELF made, not man made."

The Peach Street house had been the site of an inspirational story. Tracy Taylor was a single mother of three when she helped build the 1,100 square-foot wood frame house in the mid 1990s, making her the third recipient of a home from Habitat for Humanity of Hernando. Tracy Taylor was not home at the time of the shooting, Turner said. She could not be reached for comment.

Jannie Taylor attended services every Sunday at St. James Missionary Baptist on Wiscon Road west of Brooksville, said her grandson, Samuel Taylor. She loved to comfort grieving people with food.

"I don't care who died, Grandma was going to their funeral," Taylor said, "and she was going to cook something."

Times staff writer Katie Mettler and news researcher John Martin contributed to this report. Contact Tony Marrero at [email protected] or (727) 893-8779. Follow @tmarrerotimes.

   
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