ST. PETERSBURG — The first report reached police at 6:40 a.m. Thursday: Someone had been shot on a residential street. Officers found blood, but no victim. Minutes later, police learned that a woman with gunshot wounds was dropped off at Bayfront Medical Center by a man. Two small children were in the back of the car.
Then Matthew Vincent Turner drove off, police said, and they've been looking for him ever since.
St. Petersburg police believe that Turner twice shot the mother of his two children, Dejanah M. Nero, took her to the hospital with their kids in tow, then disappeared. The children were found safe and their mother is expected to recover.
Turner is considered armed and dangerous by police, who say the shooting was the latest in a string of violence involving the on-again, off-again couple.
Turner, 26, is wanted on a charge of attempted murder. He's a felon who was first arrested at 13 for auto burglary.
He has a long history of arrests, including a two-year prison stint for possession and sale of cocaine and resisting arrest that ended in 2006.
Minutes after Thursday's shooting, police say Turner pulled up to Bayfront with Nero. She was taken into the emergency room. Scores of officers converged on the hospital. Security reported seeing a gun inside Turner's car and seeing the car drive into a parking garage.
Officers set up a perimeter around the hospital's east parking garage at Sixth Avenue S and Eighth Street and blocked off traffic. They searched the area but didn't find the car.
Officers later surrounded a house at 5258 20th Ave. N with crime scene tape. Nero lives there, they say. Turner may have, too. A handgun marked as evidence was seen on the front lawn. Police have not said whether it was used in the shooting.
Nero, 20, was shot in the arm and the chest, police said. She was listed in serious but stable condition.
She and Turner have two children, according to police records: a 2-year-old boy and a 4-month-old. Both were found safe with Turner's mother after the shooting, police said.
Nero and Turner have been involved in multiple incidents of domestic violence.
In February 2010, police said, Nero and Turner had apparently broken up when she went to give him back her key. Instead, police said, Turner assaulted her and put a brick through her driver's side window. After Turner was handcuffed, police said, Nero spit on him. She was also arrested. The charges against both were dropped for undisclosed reasons.
Six months later, police say, Turner pulled Nero — now pregnant with their second child — from her vehicle and beat her. He was arrested, police said, but Nero became uncooperative when she learned he was going to jail. That's why prosecutors dropped the charges.
Nero didn't want to prosecute Turner, she told police, because she was in "mad love" with him.
Times researcher Caryn Baird and staff writers Lorri Helfand and Danny Valentine contributed. Jamal Thalji can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8472.