TAMPA — A grand jury has indicted five people in the Aug. 22 slaying of Suni Bell, a 4-year-old Tampa girl shot to death from another car as she was riding on East Hillsborough Avenue.
All five of the suspects have been taken into custody by the U.S. Marshals Florida Regional Fugitive Task Force, Tampa police said in a news release.
They were identified as Zvante Sampson, 30; Quandarious Hammond, 28; Jaylin Bedward, 22; James Denson, 24; and Andrew Thompson, 22.
The indictment accuses all five of first-degree murder in the slaying of Suni, attempted first-degree murder on a different victim in the case, conspiracy to commit murder, and shooting into a vehicle.
In addition, Hammond and Sampson are charged with attempted murder on a third victim in the case, and Hammond, Thompson, and Denson are charged with discharging a firearm from a vehicle in public.
Suni was riding in a silver sedan on Hillsborough near 43rd Street about 9 p.m. on a Sunday night when a dark-colored vehicle drew up alongside and began firing, police said. The car crashed into a pole and her mother later realized the girl had been shot. Suni was taken to a nearby hospital, where she died.
Police have released little information about the slaying but it didn’t appear Suni was the target. The girl was just about to start her first semester at school.
Police credited the work of department detectives with developing enough evidence for the State Attorney’s Office to obtain an indictment. The charges come six weeks after the slaying.
“Today’s indictment represents a significant step forward in the effort to hold Suni’s killers accountable and deliver justice for her and her family,” police said in the news release. “Tampa Police and the Hillsborough State Attorney’s Office will continue their work to identify and prosecute everyone involved.”
Police from the outset enlisted help from the community to find the killer or killers. Four days after the shooting, they went door to door in the area of East Tampa where the shooting occurred, handing out fliers to each person who answered and hanging them on doors if no one was home. If you have information, they pleaded, come forward.
Accompanying over two dozen officers were Suni’s family, community leaders, state Rep. Dianne Hart and State Attorney Andrew Warren.
Police said at the time they had received a number of tips but none were “the right type of tips.”
“We feel confident that people know what happened to Suni on Sunday night,” police Maj. Mike Stout said.
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During the same week, a reward for help in solving the case was increased to $9,500.
Detectives believe others may have been involved in the shooting and are still seeking help from the public. Anyone with information was asked to contact Crime Stoppers of Tampa Bay at 800-873-TIPS.