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St. Petersburg Police still searching for suspects in teen's murder

ST. PETERSBURG — Police continued to search Monday for the killer of a 17-year-old boy who was found shot in a dirt alley a few blocks north of Fairmount Park Elementary School over the weekend.

Jaquez Eugene Jackson, who lived at 2354 38th St. S, died early Sunday, hours after he was shot in what police think was a drive-by shooting. Another 17-year-old was hospitalized. Police haven't identified him because he is a witness.

Jackson was the seventh young man to die from gunfire since Nov. 10. All of the victims ranged in age from 16 to 25.

The wave of violence has shocked city officials. Earlier this month, Mayor Rick Kriseman led a march against gun violence. Jackson's death brings the city's homicide total this year to 14.

The grim tally could rise by early January as some cases currently under investigation might ultimately be categorized as murders, said police spokesman Mike Puetz.

On Saturday night, the teens were in a stolen white Lexus when another vehicle pulled up and fired multiple gunshots. Shortly after, Jackson and the other teen were found in a dirt alley behind 4130 Third Ave S.

Police believe the teens were driven from the scene of the shooting to the alley before they were either dumped or exited the car willingly.

Gunshots were reported about the same time at 14th Avenue S and 46th Street, but police don't know if those shots were related to Jackson's death.

The stolen Lexus was later recovered in the area of Ninth Avenue N and 51st Street, Puetz said.

Police don't know if Jackson or the other teen was involved in the car theft, Puetz said.

David Lockett realized something was wrong when he looked out his door at the corner of 41st Street and Third Avenue S to see the alley directly behind his house swarming with police about 10 p.m. Saturday.

The violence among young men saddened him, said Lockett, 80, who has lived in the neighborhood for nearly two decades.

"It don't matter what neighborhood you're in. Every so often, you're going to hear a little shooting," Lockett said.

But the recent violence was especially frustrating, he said.

"These young jitterbugs, they'll shoot over anything," Lockett said.

A relative of Jackson's declined to comment.

Detectives are getting plenty of tips. They think more than one person was involved in the shooting, Puetz said.

The recent spate of violence has to be put into context, said Kriseman's spokesman, Ben Kirby.

Overall, the city's murder total is still below the 19 homicides recorded last year. And crime is down across the board.

The city will continue to address systemic problems associated with crime, like vacant houses and buildings and youth unemployment. Already, the city is boarding up and demolishing abandoned properties at a record pace. And the city has increased funding for youth jobs, Kirby said.

But he acknowledged that a surge in violence can rattle residents.

"When you have a string of shootings like this, it makes people feel unsafe and unsure," he said.

Times researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report. Contact Charlie Frago at cfrago@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8459. Follow @CharlieFrago.

St. Petersburg Police still searching for suspects in teen's murder 12/28/15 [Last modified: Monday, December 28, 2015 9:38pm]
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