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Man found dead in Tampa house; roommate jailed

Police were called to a northeast Tampa street Thursday morning to investigate a complaint about a shirtless man running though yards and trying to enter houses.

When officers arrived, they found 23-year-old Johnny Scott Lankford in the middle of the street in an "excited" state, police said. His jeans and face were bloodied.

Officers picked up Lankford, entered his house at 10907 Arden Ave. and found his roommate dead, Tampa police spokesman Joe Durkin said.

Police would not say how 35-year-old Jon Kittles died, but a neighbor said police came to his yard searching for a gun.

Lankford, who told police he works as a sales manager for a St. Petersburg mortgage company, was arrested after police found 1.5 grams of rock cocaine in his pants, police said. He was in jail Thursday night on $5,000 bail. Police would not say whether he is a suspect in the death.

Neighbors knew little about Lankford, who bought the house in February 1999, or Kittles, who moved to Tampa in November from Kenosha, Wis.

Billy Kittles, reached Thursday at his home in Alabama, said his son drew government disability checks and a pension from an auto factory where he was injured several years ago. He retired and moved to Tampa because of its warm climate and sports teams.

Police told Billy Kittles his son put up a fight before he was shot, but police didn't say what might have led to the shooting.

"It's like getting hit by a freight train," Billy Kittles said of losing his son, one of four children. "Jon wouldn't hurt a fly. He'd give you the shirt off his back."

He said his son met Lankford shortly after moving here, and began to rent a bedroom at his house.

About 8 a.m. Thursday, Jim Messer heard a man in his yard, seven houses from Lankford's.

"The guy was pulling on my screen door," he said. "So I jumped out in my underwear and scared him."

Messer said Lankford was sweating heavily and looked scared. He said Lankford went across the street, tried to open the front home of another home, and then went into the home's unlocked laundry room as the homeowner stepped outside.

"He said, "What are you doing in my house?' " according to neighbor Ken Osadnick.

By then, Messer had called 911, and police arrived moments later and found Lankford in the middle of the street. It was unclear why he was running around the neighborhood, authorities said.

"What precipitated the death and the cause of (Lankford's) actions is all part of the questions we have," Durkin said.

About 10 a.m., Lankford was escorted out of a mobile crime lab unit on scene and taken to police headquarters. He had changed into white pants provided by police, who seized his jeans as evidence.

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