Two women listened helplessly as William E. Johnson was shot to death in his living room by two armed men who burst into his south Tampa home. About eight hours later, police arrested and charged a 25-year-old acquaintance of Johnson with the crime. Rickey Jones Robinson, of 4728 S Trask St., was being held without bail Wednesday in the Hillsborough County Jail on charges of first-degree murder and armed robbery.
According to arrest records, Robinson kept the two women in a bedroom while an unknown assailant shot Johnson. Police still are looking for the other man.
Johnson struggled with one man who shot him at least twice in the upper body during the incident that occurred about 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, police said.
"When I heard the shots, I was being held back," said one of the women visiting Johnson. The names of the witnesses are not being published because one of the suspects still is at large.
"I just got the hell out of there. I went out the window and over fences and fences until I stopped at a house and called a friend of mine," she said. "When I walked back inside the house, I saw blood all over the floor."
Johnson, a former Air Force employee with a prior arrest record, died in his home at 6312 S Renellie Court.
"We're not sure what the motive is," said police spokesman Steve Cole.
Robinson met Johnson in October when he moved to Tampa from Miami, said Robinson's 24-year-old brother, Melvin. He didn't know whether the two men had argued.
In Miami, Robinson had committed various crimes including robbery, but never "anything like this before," his brother said. Robinson had no prior record in Hillsborough County, according to the Sheriff's Office.
Melvin described Johnson as a role model who "always wanted to teach me something," he said. "He didn't deserve whatever happened to him. I think he got mixed up in a bad crowd, and somebody took advantage of him."
In September 1986, Johnson was arrested and charged with aggravated assault, battery and burglary conveyance, sheriff's records said. At the time, he worked for MacDill Air Force Base. Friends and neighbors said he had since retired from the service, and the Air Force Military Personnel Center confirmed that.
Johnson moved into the quiet residential neighborhood south of Gandy Boulevard about three years ago with his wife and son, neighbors said.
"After she (his wife) left, he went downhill," said Charles Bonney, 43, who lives next door. Bonney said a steady stream of strangers regularly came in and out of Johnson's house.