Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Vietnam veteran quick to draw; man shot in Clearwater

CLEARWATER — Lester E. Rollins Jr. told a court psychologist many years ago that he had learned an important lesson in Vietnam: Never let anyone harm or kill you.

In the four decades since he returned from the war, Rollins has pulled the trigger on three people — four if you count Tuesday morning.

Early Tuesday, about 4:45 a.m., as the 58-year-old tells it, he was sitting in the garage of his house at 902 Pennsylvania Ave. smoking and reading the paper as usual.

Alexander Stephen, 21, walked up to him and broke the quiet solitude of the morning by asking Rollins for a light. "I said, 'Give you a light? What the hell are you talking about, I haven't got a light, man, at this time in the morning,' " Rollins said in an interview with Bay News 9.

Then, Rollins said, Stephen grew belligerent and poked him in the chest with his finger. Rollins said Stephen spotted a pistol next to him and threatened Rollins, saying he would be back the next morning.

"I said 'no you won't because I'm going to take care of you right now,' " according to Rollins, "and then I shot him." He said he used his .38-caliber revolver in self-defense to ward off a robbery and protect his wife inside. After the shooting, he called 911.

As of Tuesday afternoon, Stephen, of Clearwater, was in guarded condition at Bayfront Medical Center in St. Petersburg and police were still trying to make sense of the situation.

What was Stephen doing in the garage? How did the fight start? Was Rollins even allowed to own a gun?

In Florida, convicted felons are barred from possessing guns, unless their rights have been restored.

Court records paint Rollins as a man with a violent history:

• June 19, 1981: Rollins is accused of firing his revolver at a woman inside the Blue Fountain bar in Clearwater. He is also accused of shooting a man in the face and in the arm out on the street. Rollins pleads guilty and serves two-and-a-half years of an eight-year sentence. In 1987 his rights are restored.

• May 13, 1989: Rollins is accused of beating a man in Clearwater with a baseball bat and pouring cleaning solutions down his throat. The state attorney's office decides not to prosecute. Rollins has his rights restored again in 1994.

• July 3, 1998: Rollins is working in construction. When payday comes around, he and Tim Bryant, the man handing out the money, get into a dispute. Rollins threatens to kill Bryan, according to a deposition, then pulls out his .38, aims it at Bryant, and pulls the trigger. The gun does not go off. A few minutes later, Rollins comes back to say he is sorry.

Rollins pleads no contest to the charge of being a felon in possession of a firearm and improper exhibition of a firearm. He serves 14 months.

Since then, he has not had his rights restored, according to the Office of Executive Clemency.

On Tuesday, police still hadn't decided what to do with the incident. No one has been charged with a crime.

Stephen had one prior arrest for possession of marijuana. He pleaded no contest to that misdemeanor charge in December.

Staff photographer Douglas R. Clifford contributed to this report. Jonathan Abel can be reached at jabel@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4157.

Vietnam veteran quick to draw; man shot in Clearwater 08/05/08 [Last modified: Saturday, August 9, 2008 2:05pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Tributes pour in for ex-national security adviser Brzezinski

    Nation

    WASHINGTON — Well before he went to the White House in 1977, Jimmy Carter was impressed by the views of foreign policy expert Zbigniew Brzezinski. That Carter immediately liked the Polish-born academic advising his campaign was a plus.

    Foreign policy expert Zbigniew Brzezinski died Friday.
  2. One year after deaths, Sunset Music Festival kicks off with emphasis on water and security

    Public Safety

    TAMPA — Before the beat drops, or even builds, you hear Steve-O.

    "If you don't get water you're lame!"

    "Hey! Free water! Come on!"

    Steve "Steve-O" Raymond motions to guests making the line to grab free water bottle at the entrance of the Sunset Music Festival on the grounds of the Raymond James Stadium parking lot in Tampa. ( LUIS SANTANA   |   Times)
  3. Twins eventually cash in as Rays lose, fall back to .500 (w/video)

    The Heater

    MINNEAPOLIS — The Rays could only battle their way out of trouble for so long Saturday afternoon before succumbing in a 5-2 loss to the Twins.

    MINNEAPOLIS, MN - MAY 27: Brian Dozier #2 of the Minnesota Twins celebrates hitting a two-run home run as Derek Norris #33 of the Tampa Bay Rays looks on during the eighth inning of the game on May 27, 2017 at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Twins defeated the Rays 5-3. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images) 700010973
  4. Rays Tales: The stories behind Corey Dickerson's ascension

    The Heater

    The 25 pounds DH/LF Corey Dickerson lost during the winter through diet and exercise are considered the primary reason for his ascension to one of the American League's most productive hitters, going into the weekend leading in hits, multi-hit games and total bases, and ranked in the top five in average, runs and …

    Tampa Bay Rays designated hitter Corey Dickerson (10) connects for a sac fly, scores Tampa Bay Rays first baseman Steve Pearce (28) in the fourth inning of the game between the Seattle Mariners and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Wednesday, June 15, 2016.
  5. Fans in Florida and beyond won't forget Gregg Allman

    Music & Concerts

    The end can come quickly for those who live fast and live hard, who create worlds with their talent and sometimes come close to throwing them away.

    This Oct. 13, 2011 file photo shows Gregg Allman performs at the Americana Music Association awards show in Nashville, Tenn. On Saturday, May 27, 2017, a publicist said the musician, the singer for The Allman Brothers Band, has died. (AP Photo/Joe Howell, File)