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Gang member fired AK-47, police say

Leo DuBois, 83, was upholstering his recreational vehicle in the back yard when the gunfire erupted, shattering the peace he has known in his Meadowlawn neighborhood for 41 years.

A few doors away, police say, a 19-year-old gang member had pointed a Chinese version of an AK-47 at passing cars and fired eight bullets.

"Get down! Get down!" DuBois shouted to his 76-year-old wife, Jeanette.

"It sounded like World War II," he said.

The DuBoises were not hurt, but three teenagers were wounded Tuesday night in what police say was a fight between rival gangs in front of 7130 Meadowlawn Drive in northern St. Petersburg.

Detectives from the police department's Gang Intelligence Team said the 19-year-old triggerman was a known gang member. They were searching for him late Wednesday.

They arrested a 17-year-old boy who lives at 7130 Meadowlawn Drive, where the shooting started. Police say Michael McKeever, a suspect in the fight, assaulted a teenager and obstructed the investigation by trying to hide the AK-47 in his house.

Police would not release the gang names or their distinguishing features, saying they do not want to "glamorize" membership. The gangs involved in the shooting were two of 10 to 12 known criminal street gangs in St. Petersburg, they said.

"We have parents who minimize it," said Lt. Tom Gavin, commander of the Gang Intelligence Team. "They say, "Oh, my kid's a wanna-be.' Parents need to take steps to prevent this."

Details were sketchy Wednesday, but an argument over a girlfriend of one of group members sparked the fight, police said.

"There was discussion on maybe having a truce or having a fight," said Bill Doniel, police spokesman. "I think the last part of the dialogue was that they were going over to have a fight."

About 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, a group of teens went to the Meadowlawn Drive house in three cars. They had baseball bats.

The three teens who were injured in the shooting, Edwin Baron, Scott Nicholson and Gus Rodriguez, were part of the caravan.

They say they were driving by the house when a group of teenagers stormed out, shouting and firing guns.

In the front yard, police say, the 19-year-old triggerman stood, wearing a bullet proof vest. The AK-47 rested on his shoulder.

A teenager in one of the cars got out to confront him with a baseball bat and shots were fired, said Gavin, the commander of the Gang Intelligence Team. Gavin said that in addition to the AK-47, two bullets were fired from an unrecovered handgun.

Baron, 19, was sitting in front of another car with Nicholson, who was driving.

"I looked toward the driver to see if he was all right, and right when I looked, the bullet hit me," Baron, a Clearwater resident, said during an interview from his hospital bed Wednesday.

Baron was recovering from a gunshot wound to the back at Bayfront Medical Center. Nicholson, 16, of St. Petersburg, was recovering from a bullet wound to the left elbow. Rodriguez, 15, was treated for a gunshot wound to the left foot and released.

They say they are not gang members and that the shooting was random.

"We just break dance and play volleyball," said Rodriguez of St. Petersburg.

Said Baron: "I say they shouldn't judge a book by the cover."

For neighbors along Meadowlawn Drive, the shootings came as no surprise.

Steve Harris described the house where the shootings started as a gang hangout.

"You see a lot of hand signs and bandannas," Harris said.

For the DuBois couple, the shooting was unnerving.

"Oh, it was terrible, awful," said Mrs. DuBois. "I couldn't sleep the rest of the night."

_ Times staff writer Mike Brassfield contributed to this story.

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