Three indicted in St. Petersburg murder-for-hire shootings on MLK Day 2019

A federal indictment alleges Kermon “The General” Williams conspired with James “Hammer” Higgs Jr. and Jhaphre “Pre” Higgs to murder Tywan Armstrong.
The Sam M. Gibbons United States Courthouse in downtown Tampa.
The Sam M. Gibbons United States Courthouse in downtown Tampa. [ Times ]
Published Jan. 23, 2020|Updated Jan. 24, 2020

TAMPA — A federal grand jury on Thursday indicted three men who prosecutors say were involved in a murder-for-hire plot that culminated in a double fatal shooting after last year’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration in St. Petersburg.

The plot centered on a rivalry between Kermon “The General” Williams and Tywan Armstrong, according to the indictments. Williams wanted to “eliminate a perceived threat to his drug business” and “project a reputation for violence and strength” for his business by killing Armstrong, the indictment states.

So Williams hired the Higgs brothers — James “Hammer” Higgs Jr. and Jhaphre “Pre” Higgs — to carry out the hit, giving them an AR-15 rifle and offering money and drugs, according to the indictment.

Related: St. Petersburg police say men were targets in double-homicide

The brothers found Armstrong on Sept. 22, 2018, and shot him, according to court documents. But Armstrong survived.

The indictment says they tried again on Jan. 19, 2019. Armstrong was in a Cadillac with two other men at a Shell station at 34th Street and 18th Avenue S., a popular neighborhood gathering spot. That night, about 100 people were in the area when a Lexus pulled up alongside the Cadillac. Witnesses heard arguing and cursing before 13 gunshots.

Armstrong, 39, and Roger Lee Ford, 42, were both killed. A third man, Carlos Demetrius Young, 44, was injured but survived.

City officials said at the time that the shooting was not connected to the annual parade or the unofficial after-parties that go late into the evening.

After the murders, the group changed cell phones in an effort to dispose of evidence and discussed developing false alibis, according to the indictments.

The indictments mention a fourth unnamed person who is said to have helped dispose of evidence and spent a portion of the proceeds from the murder.

Williams and the Higgs brothers face multiple federal charges including conspiracy to commit murder, murder-for-hire, and various firearms and drug-related offenses.