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Tattoo may mark old feud with deputies

Another tattoo, another puzzling clue in the death of Pasco County sheriff's Lt. Charles "Bo" Harrison.

When authorities arrested 19-year-old Alfredie Steele Jr. and accused him of shooting Harrison in the back in the early morning of June 1, they inventoried tattoos on Steele's body that honored his dead friends.

Some around Lacoochee said Steele was stung by the May death of his close friend, Michael Anthony Reed, killed in a car crash while fleeing a deputy. At the time of Steele's arrest, State Attorney Bernie McCabe said investigators speculated the attack on Harrison was a reaction to Reed's death.

But new information released by the State Attorney's Office might trace Steele's angst back even further, back to the September death of another close friend, Daron Black, gunned down in a shootout with deputies.

When deputies arrested Steele on June 3, they noted on the arrest report several tattoos they found on his body. One reads "RIP," a common salute to the dead.

Another is "MAR," and those who knew Steele said it stood for Michael Anthony Reed. Another reads "GRP," an apparent reference to Garion "Red" Pope, killed in a February car crash.

But included in a stack of documents released last week is a photograph of another tattoo. The word "Soldier" runs down Steele's spine.

Some say Black was known by the nickname "Soldier." Others say they've never heard him called that. And Steele's public defender, Tom Hanlon, said Tuesday the tattoo was meant as a sweeping memorial not only to dead friends around his hometown, but to dead soldiers in Iraq.

In building a case, prosecutors asked witnesses about Black and the nickname.

"Why did they call him Soldier?" Assistant State Attorney Phil Van Allen asked Reed's sister, Undrea Charmaine Hudson, during questioning June 13.

"He was in the Army, I guess," she said.

"Did you ever hear Fredie refer to him as Soldier?" Van Allen asked.

"Every now and again he'll say it," Hudson answered.

Steele's mother, Regina Cowan Clemmons, told Van Allen that Black was close to her family. He was fishing with her late husband, Lonnie Clemmons, in December 1999 when he fell from the boat and drowned. After that, Black stepped in to help the family.

"(Black) was pretty much a permanent fixture around," Mrs. Clemmons said. "When Lonnie died, (Black) kind of was trying to be there for the boys, you know, "If anything you need, come to me. Me and your daddy was close. Anything I can do to help you.' And I know that when (Black) died, they went out and got T-shirts made with (Black) jumping out of a helicopter."

Whether Black had served in the military could not be confirmed Tuesday.

Steele's friend, Reginald Stewart Morgan, said he never heard the nickname.

"Everybody calls him by his full name every time they see him," Morgan told Van Allen.

And on Tuesday, Hanlon added, "I don't see the two deaths related at all."

Black died Sept. 12 when a SWAT team went to serve a search warrant at his Trilby home. Deputies said Black opened fire on them. Sheriff's Cpl. Gordon Larkin was shot between the eyes in the exchange but survived. Black, a felon, died as deputies returned fire, striking him several times, according to authorities.

Larkin was awarded the Purple Heart. The deputies who tended to him and who fired at Black were awarded the Sheriff's Office's Medal of Valor. And all 17 SWAT team members were given a Special Recognition Award.

But around Lacoochee, suspicion over the incident lingers, and friends remember Black in a different light.

Friend Phillip Bennett described Black on Tuesday as "good people."

Deputies had ample opportunity before the shooting to stop Black at a neighborhood store, Bennett said. Instead, they waited until a SWAT team could assemble at his home.

"They had some bad intentions," Bennett said. "They shot him up real bad. Maybe he knew something they didn't want out.

"It doesn't take that many bullets to shoot an elephant," Bennett said.

Another Lacoochee man, Rubin Leon "P.J." Pickett, said people in Lacoochee are wary of the Sheriff's Office, and Black's death is a part of that skepticism.

"They had a shootout with him, but they still haven't said what gun he had," Pickett said. "So man, there's a lot of s--- that just doesn't sound right to everybody."

Talking with the St. Petersburg Times last month, Mrs. Clemmons said mistrust of police is not a problem that just cropped up in Lacoochee.

"This is a terrible problem in this community," she said. "Like a big old festering sore."

Harrison, 57, was a 31-year Sheriff's Office veteran. He was less than two weeks from retirement when he was shot while sitting in his car while watching over Rumors nightclub along U.S. 301. As details of their case emerge, prosecutors contend Steele acted alone, obtaining an SKS assault rifle in a drug deal last year, test firing it and then ambushing Harrison.

Steele has been held in a Sumter County jail since his arrest. He is charged with first-degree murder and is scheduled to appear Monday at his arraignment, where Hanlon said he will enter a plea of not guilty.

__ Chase Squires covers east Pasco courts. He can be reached at (352) 521-5757, ext. 27 or toll-free 1-800-333-7505, ext. 6108, then 27. His e-mail address is squiressptimes.com.

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