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Two Tampa men arrested in attack on MacDill soldier

TAMPA — Police arrested two men Friday whom they say robbed and beat an Army sergeant for a cellphone and a wallet near MacDill Air Force Base early Sunday morning.

Geroshe Lewis and Lerome Howard, both 18, were each charged with aggravated battery and robbery, police said.

The two men were allegedly part of a trio that approached Sgt. Johnny Aparicio, 24, about 3:30 a.m. on Iowa Avenue and asked him for a dollar. The men, later joined by a fourth man, began punching and kicking him. They robbed Aparicio and ran away, police said.

Caught on surveillance video, the incident garnered attention around the country. Businesses and individuals, locally and from as far away as New Jersey, pledged more than $16,000 in reward money for information leading to the suspects' arrest.

Tampa police said they received "dozens" of tips.

"It was the tips that led to the arrest," spokeswoman Andrea Davis said.

She said one of the men began talking about the incident, and word of his involvement spread. Police received multiple calls from people providing them with the same name. Davis would not say which man tipsters identified.

Police said multiple people may receive reward money because the department and Crime Stoppers received so many calls.

Officers arrested Lewis, of 4712 W Wallcraft Ave., on Friday at Robinson High School. He was taken into custody at the end of the school day in a school resource officer's office.

"Geroshe Lewis is a senior and belonged to no clubs and does not play any sports," said Steve Hegarty, a spokesman for the Hillsborough County School District, in a statement. "Based on the charges and the seriousness of the alleged crimes, he will not be returning to Robinson High School."

Police arrested Howard at his Sulphur Springs home at 8013 N 13th St.

Both men were arrested without incident, Davis said.

One man, though she would not say which one, is cooperating with investigators and is remorseful. The other man is providing only "limited cooperation," she said.

Lewis has a limited nonviolent criminal history, Davis said. Howard's criminal history is "extensive," she said, though she did not elaborate.

In 2009, Howard was charged with robbery with a firearm, state records show. The charge was later dropped.

Officials are still searching for the two other men who were involved in Sunday's incident.

Aparicio, who recently was assigned to U.S. Central Command at MacDill, had facial injuries and was hospitalized and released earlier this week.

Police said he had picked one of the men from a collection of photos and was "happy" about the arrests.

Times researcher John Martin contributed to this report. Shelley Rossetter can be reached at (813)661-2442 or srossetter@tampabay.com.

Two Tampa men arrested in attack on MacDill soldier 05/18/12 [Last modified: Wednesday, February 27, 2013 6:30pm]
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