Authorities say a gun-toting adult became involved after a fight between youth in a subdivision in western Hillsborough County.
A fight between two youths in the tidy Countryway subdivision Sunday escalated into a confrontation between adults that left a man dead of a gunshot wound to the abdomen.
Sheriff's detectives didn't release the names of the people involved, but neighbors said the victim was Jemale Wells, 39, of 11680 Fox Creek Drive. He lived in the west Hillsborough community for nine years.
Handcuffed and taken away in the back of a deputy's car for questioning was the boyfriend of one of the children's mothers. The man, whose identity couldn't be confirmed late Sunday, is a local dentist, neighbors said.
Sgt. Rob Bullara said detectives were still trying to sort everything out late Sunday, but he gave this account:
"This was a neighborhood altercation that began with juveniles and spilled over into a fight between adults. . . . Everybody lived in this area; it's not like trouble came in from outside."
Bullara added that the children's fight was just that, a fight between kids, and not in any way gang-related.
Neighbors who witnessed the confrontations Sunday afternoon gave a fuller, if more convoluted, account. After Wells helped to break up the fighting children, one of them went home and told his mother that Wells pulled his arm. When she came to confront Wells, who is black, neighbors said she used a racial epithet. During that incident, either the woman fell or was pushed down and scraped her elbow.
She left and returned with her boyfriend. The two of them confronted Wells and the father of one of the fighting children, and then neighbors said the boyfriend pulled out a gun. A struggle started, and the gun went off.
An off-duty Clearwater police officer who lives in the neighborhood then came out with her gun drawn and took the boyfriend into custody while other neighbors called 911.
Mary Beth Faichney, 16, said she wishes the adults in her neighborhood had acted a little more like adults.
"If she thought Jemale had hurt her son, she should've called the cops," Faichney said. "She shouldn't have gone over there screaming at him and calling him names. Parents are supposed to set an example for their kids."
The boyfriend had not been charged with a crime late Sunday.
Wells died late Sunday after surgery at St. Joseph's Hospital in Tampa.
"Jemale's a family man," said his neighbor Larry Peterson. "He has a wife, two kids, and he's just trying to raise them in the best environment possible. You don't expect something like this in this neighborhood. It's quiet here."
According to records, Wells married Nora Carroll in 1986. They have two daughters, who neighbors said had nothing to do with Sunday's fight.
Peterson said Wells was a retired officer in the military and a graduate of Florida A&M University. Wells and his wife owned a store, Beverage King, on W Waters Avenue.