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2 random shootings within days may be same suspect, St. Petersburg police say

Vernon Williams, 60, and Corlenzo Williams, 24, both were shot and killed without any known motive, according to police Chief Anthony Holloway.
St. Petersburg police Chief Anthony Holloway held a news conference Wednesday to talk about the fatal shootings of Corlenzo Williams, 24, and Vernon Williams, 60. Both men were shot while walking on St. Petersburg streets in separate shootings a few days apart.
St. Petersburg police Chief Anthony Holloway held a news conference Wednesday to talk about the fatal shootings of Corlenzo Williams, 24, and Vernon Williams, 60. Both men were shot while walking on St. Petersburg streets in separate shootings a few days apart. [ Michaela Mulligan ]
Published Apr. 13|Updated Apr. 14

ST. PETERSBURG — Two St. Petersburg men were killed within days of each other. Now, police are seeking the public’s help to find the person they say may be responsible for both slayings.

Vernon Williams, 60, died early Sunday of a gunshot wound in the 900 block of Melrose Avenue South. The second man, Corlenzo Williams, 24, was shot and killed early Tuesday morning in the 2900 block of 17th Avenue South — about two miles away from where Vernon was killed.

Police Chief Anthony Holloway held a news conference Wednesday afternoon to discuss the incidents. He said investigators believe both men were walking when they were approached by an unknown male in an unknown vehicle. Holloway said they think the suspect had a brief conversation with each man before shooting him.

Photos of Corlenzo Williams, 24, and Vernon Williams, 60, were displayed at a Wednesday news conference at the St. Petersburg Police Department, 1301 1st Avenue North. Both men were shot to death while walking on a St. Petersburg street in separate shootings a few days apart, St. Petersburg police said.
Photos of Corlenzo Williams, 24, and Vernon Williams, 60, were displayed at a Wednesday news conference at the St. Petersburg Police Department, 1301 1st Avenue North. Both men were shot to death while walking on a St. Petersburg street in separate shootings a few days apart, St. Petersburg police said. [ Michaela Mulligan ]

A possible third victim came forward Tuesday and told police he was approached by a man in a vehicle who may have been the suspect. The two had a conversation, but then he noticed a weapon in the man’s vehicle and he ran, according to Holloway. The incident happened just a few blocks from where Corlenzo Williams was shot, the police chief said.

Holloway would not comment on the content of the conversation the man had with the driver of the vehicle.

Investigators need to continue gathering evidence before determining if one person is responsible for the three incidents, Holloway said.

“So we’re assuming that the suspect is driving down the street, spotting these people that are walking down the street — having a conversation and then shooting them,” Holloway said.

Investigators have not found anything that would link Vernon Williams and Corlenzo Williams to each other, or any evidence that would link either of them to the man who came forward Tuesday, Holloway said. None appear to have been robbed, he said, and there is no known motive at this time.

St. Petersburg police and detectives are knocking on doors in the area of the killings and talking to people to see if anyone saw anything pertaining to any of the three incidents, Holloway said. Federal, state and local law enforcement partners are assisting in the case, he added.

The Police Department does not have clear video of the suspect or the vehicle the suspect was driving, Holloway said. He called on members of the public who might have any video footage taken in the area of the crime scenes during the time of the shootings — including surveillance footage and video taken from doorbell cameras such as Ring — to contact the department so that officers can view it.

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“Let us come by, let the detectives look at the camera from the late hours to the early morning hours,” Holloway said. “Maybe on that camera, it got a picture of this person, it got a picture of that car, so we can possibly link them.”

Video footage also could link a suspect to all three incidents, he said.

Holloway advised that anyone walking in the early morning or late hours of the day be cautious. If a male driving a vehicle stops you, do not approach the car and walk away, he said.

“We have officers out there doing extra patrol, we want people to know that there are police officers in the community.”

Crime Stoppers is offering a reward of up to $5,000 for information that leads to an arrest in either fatal shooting, according to St. Petersburg police. Anyone with information can call 800-873-TIPS.

This is a developing story. Stay with tampabay.com for updates.

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