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Woman shot dead, man wounded by high-powered rifle in St. Petersburg

A young man going to the site of the shooting is comforted by his friends as he cries out that the woman shot was his mother.

LARA CERRI | Times

A young man going to the site of the shooting is comforted by his friends as he cries out that the woman shot was his mother.

ST. PETERSBURG — A 32-year-old woman was killed and her boyfriend wounded early Friday in a seemingly unprovoked attack by a man with a high-powered, semiautomatic rifle on the banks of Lake Maggiore, police said.

Angela Burgess of St. Petersburg was shot about 5 a.m. as she slept in a car belonging to her boyfriend, who was fishing in the lake.

The gunman first fired at the boyfriend, Willie Edwards, 32, who ducked underwater as the bullets flew. When he emerged from the lake, Burgess was dead and the gunman had fled. Police were still looking for him late Friday.

A bullet grazed Edwards' leg. He was treated at Bayfront Medical Center and released. He returned to the lake hours later and retold the chilling encounter to neighbors and relatives while a large crowd gathered.

It was the 13th homicide in St. Petersburg this year.

The shooting took place near the 2800 block of Pallanza Way S, just west of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Street near 30th Avenue S, police said.

Edwards, still dressed in a hospital gown and blue disposable shoe covers and leaning on crutches, said he was fishing when a car pulled up about 4 a.m. and dropped off Burgess.

She gave him a drink and then went to his car to wait for him.

An hour later, the gunman approached the lake by walking between houses along the south side of Pallanza Way S.

Edwards said he had a fish on his line when he heard the first gunshot. He immediately jumped in the lake.

"I was out of breath already," he said.

The gunman then turned on Burgess, firing several rounds into the vehicle.

"Then I didn't hear anything anymore," Edwards said.

He stood on his knees in the water and looked for the gunman. He said he climbed out of the lake and banged on the door of a nearby house, but no one answered. Edwards said he recognized the gunman, but didn't elaborate.

"They want to kill me," Edwards said. "I'm not going to die."

Police then asked to speak to him in private. Edwards' story was met with horror from Burgess' friends and relatives, many of whom gathered near the crime scene in small groups and comforted one another. More than 100 people filled the street.

One man was so upset he attempted to walk past the police tape blocking the murder scene. As friends picked him up and carried him away from police, he cried out, "I've got to see my sister. I ain't going out like this!"

A woman banged on the windows of a police van carrying Burgess' body as the vehicle drove away.

Cynthia Woods, the grandmother of Burgess' youngest son, said Burgess was well known throughout Midtown. At parties, she was one of the first people on the dance floor. She loved to cook and was proud of her collard greens recipe.

"She was a very happy person, very outspoken, she loved life," Woods said.

Woods said Burgess wanted to do something nice for Edwards, who had been fishing all night, so she took him something to drink.

"Who kills someone and just walks away?" Woods said. "She was just bringing someone a drink and she got killed. That's it. That's all it takes here."

Burgess' death leaves at least one of her four children, a 15-year-old son, an orphan. The boy's father, Calvin Swain, 28, was shot and killed in the parking lot of Wildwood Recreation Center in 2005, Woods said. Burgess also has two other sons and a daughter.

"Now, my grandson has lost both of his parents," said Woods, who was Swain's mother.

Burgess was arrested 27 times since 1994, including arrests for marijuana possession, strong-arm robbery, trespassing and resisting arrest. Burgess wanted to change, Woods said.

"She had been involved with some stuff, but she was getting it together," she said. "She just completed a medical assistance training program and was looking forward to a good job to provide for her kids."

Edwards also has a lengthy criminal record. He's been arrested 25 times from 1993 to 2004, including for cocaine possession, domestic violence and smuggling counterfeit into prison.

Both his and Burgess' drivers' licenses had been suspended.

Evoly Brown said he was friends with both Burgess and Edwards. Burgess' friends are going to be looking for her killer, he said.

"You don't kill a woman like that," he said.

Times staff researcher Will Short Gorham contributed to this report. Cristina Silva can be reached at (727) 893-8846 or csilva@sptimes.com.

Victims of attack

Angela Burgess, 32, was killed as she slept in a car

by Lake Maggiore Friday morning. Her boyfriend,

Willie Edwards, 32, who

was fishing, escaped the

gunman by jumping into

the lake.

Woman shot dead, man wounded by high-powered rifle in St. Petersburg 05/09/08 [Last modified: Friday, May 16, 2008 2:00pm]
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