ST. PETERSBURG — Two people have been arrested in the fatal shooting of a 19-year-old Tuesday, while arrests have yet to be made in an unrelated shooting, just hours later, of a 21-year-old woman killed while holding her baby, city officials said Wednesday.
The announcement came as Mayor Rick Kriseman, police Chief Anthony Holloway and City Council Member Lisa Wheeler-Bowman pleaded for the community’s help in solving the woman’s slaying and for ending a spike in gun violence. The St. Petersburg Police Department has recorded 12 homicides and one manslaughter this year, Holloway said, compared to 15 homicides in all of 2020. All but one of this year’s killings have been shootings.
“I don’t know if the right people will hear this or see this, and that’s the problem when politicians talk about guns,” Kriseman said. “I have to say it anyway: Put the guns away. Please. There’s no problem in your life, no dispute, no drug deal, no relationship problem that’s worth the taking of a life — not your life, not someone else’s life.”
In the first of Tuesday’s shootings, police were called at 3:49 p.m. to a home on Fargo Street S, which runs south from 11th Avenue S. Dquaz Davis, 19, who had been shot, was taken to a hospital, where he died of his injuries.
Paul Alexander Reaves, 21, and Ajay Alvarez, 19, have been arrested in his killing, police said. Reaves faces charges of felony murder and aggravated assault, and Alvarez faces a charge of second-degree murder. Police did not detail their alleged involvement in the killing.
But police have not made an arrest in the killing of K’Mia Simmons, 21, who was shot just after 6 p.m. when the car she was riding in stopped for a red light at the intersection of 18th Avenue S and 22nd Street.
Simmons was in the car with a man, who was driving, and her two daughters, ages 2 and 1, police said. She was holding the 1-year-old when she was shot, Holloway said. Bullets also went into the back seat of the car, Holloway said, narrowly missing the 2-year-old and piercing her booster seat.
Police believe the man who was driving was the target of the shooting, Holloway said. He said police are still looking to talk to the man, who left the scene before police arrived. Crime Stoppers of Pinellas County is also offering up to $5,000 to anyone with information on the shooting.
Wheeler-Bowman read from a Facebook post that she said was made by the driver, in which he said Simmons “was a good girl, went to school, all that, did whatever for her little girls.”
“You talk about all that, you know who’s after you and you won’t come forward?” said the council member, whose son, Cabretti, was murdered in 2008. “Don’t blame my police officers, don’t blame me, blame yourself.
“Every time there’s a murder ... I know how the family is feeling and it breaks my heart,” she added. “Nobody wants to stand up and do the right thing, and I’m sick of it.”
The rise in violence — which also included four killings in the last two months of 2020 — has wracked St. Peterburg’s Black community, Holloway noted: All the victims of this year’s 11 gun homicides, and all those who have been arrested in them, are Black.
“As an African-American, this pains me,” the chief said. “We are hurting as a community.”
Last year’s mark of 15 homicides was the city’s lowest since 2015, according to police department data. If killings continued at the pace of this year’s first three months, 2021 would become by far the city’s deadliest year in the 21st century; the city’s record for the most homicides in a year in that period currently belongs to 2005, when 30 people were killed.
The spike comes after years of declines in violent crime, Kriseman said, and Holloway said rates of other kinds of violent crime continue to drop. Holloway doesn’t believe the city is dangerous, he said — all of this year’s homicide victims were targeted, not random.
Kriseman had a message for people considering violence: Change your ways or get out of St. Petersburg.
“Please, get help,” the mayor said. “Get your life back on track. Or leave our city, because that’s not how we do it here. If that’s how you settle arguments, or your goal is revenge, you’re not welcome here.”