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Man shot victim with rifle, returned, and shot again in Plant City drug ripoff

Wilmer Rosales, 22, pleaded guilty to murder in federal court for the January 2019 slaying at Springhead Park.
Springhead Park in Plant City, adjacent to Springhead Elementary School, was the scene of a fatal shooting during a drug ripoff in January 2019.
Springhead Park in Plant City, adjacent to Springhead Elementary School, was the scene of a fatal shooting during a drug ripoff in January 2019. [ Hillsborough County ]
Published Oct. 22, 2020|Updated Oct. 22, 2020

TAMPA — A Plant City man who pleaded guilty to federal murder charges shot his victim during a drug robbery at a park, drove away, then returned and shot at him again as others came to the victim’s aid.

Wilmer Rosales, 22, entered the plea in Tampa to charges including using a firearm and first-degree murder in furtherance of a drug conspiracy, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said in a news release Wednesday. Rosales faces up to life in prison. No sentencing date has been set.

The slaying on the night of Jan. 25, 2019, was investigated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office as part of Project Safe Neighborhoods, a program that brings together law enforcement from all levels.

Wilmer Rosales, 22, of Plant City, has pleaded guilty to federal charges in the shooting death of a Lakeland man during a drug ripoff at a county park.
Wilmer Rosales, 22, of Plant City, has pleaded guilty to federal charges in the shooting death of a Lakeland man during a drug ripoff at a county park. [ Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office ]

A Sheriff’s Office affidavit gives this account of the incident:

Rosales and a co-defendant, Joel Sierra, 25, lured victim Grant Urquhart, 23, of Lakeland, to Springhead Park in Plant City. The park is adjacent to an elementary school. Sierra told Urquhart he wanted to buy marijuana from him but informed investigators later that he planned to rip Urquhart off for selling Sierra fake Xanax pills in an earlier deal. Sierra asked others to drive to the park and join him in the scheme.

Sierra, known to Urquhart as “JoJo," got into a car carrying Urquhart and his girlfriend, Taylor Sharer, 24. The deal was to sell half a pound of marijuana for $2,420, investigators later learned. But Sierra took off running with the money and the marijuana. Urquhart, carrying a 9 mm pistol, chased after him.

Sharer followed the two men and came upon the two bags of marijuana Sierra was carrying. She returned them to the car and heard gunshots. She ran back in search of Urquhart, heard more gunshots and found Urquhart on the ground with several bullet wounds. She called 911.

Soon afterward, a silver Chrysler 300 stopped nearby along Nesmith Road and a number of gunshots were fired from inside toward Sharer and Urquhart, she said. Sharer said she had noticed four cars in the parking lot pulling away earlier as Sierra started running, including a silver Chrysler 300.

In the news release, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said that as Urquhart was chasing Sierra, Rosales drove by and fired at Urquhart with a 7.62 mm rifle, hitting him a number of times. Rosales and co-conspirators in the other cars then left the scene. But Rosales returned shortly after and again fired at Urquhart while Sharer and others were trying to help him.

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Investigators found bullet casings in the park area indicating Urquhart had fired his pistol. Six days later, a silver Chrysler 300 registered to Rosales and riddled with bullet holes was found abandoned about 10 miles north of the park, along Knights Griffin Road.

Sierra told investigators he heard gunshots as he was running from Urquhart and thought Urquhart was firing at him. He ran through the park, across Nesmith Road and became entangled in a barbed-wire fence. He said he had been driven to the park by a man he knew only as “DoubleU," later identified as Rosales, and that the man remained behind in the vehicle while Sierra went to make the buy.

Another man who had come to the park at Sierra’s request drove him from the scene.

Sierra is scheduled to plead guilty Nov. 12 for his part in the shooting, prosecutors said.

Urquhart worked at a stainless steel company in Tampa and helped his family found the group “Lakeland Rocks,” a community of people on Facebook who paint and hide rocks to lift the spirits of those who come upon them.

Rosales, a self-employed handyman, was arrested Aug. 8 at his home in Plant City, according to a jail arrest log. He was in possession of a machine gun and ammunition at the time, according to his plea agreement.

Rosales pleaded guilty to conspiring to traffic in controlled substances, conspiring to commit robbery, committing robbery, using a firearm and committing first-degree murder in furtherance of a drug conspiracy, and possessing a firearm and ammunition as a convicted felon. He was previously convicted of possessing methamphetamine and possessing 20 grams or more of marijuana.

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