Nearly a year after authorities found a man shot to death in a vehicle on Interstate 275, three people have been arrested in connection to the shooting, including a man currently in jail on charges related to a mass shooting in Wildwood, according to the Tampa Police Department.
Lance James Jr., 22, was found with a gunshot wound in the area of I-275 near Sligh Avenue, on June 8, 2021. Officers responded to the area after they received phone calls about a crash, with one caller noting they had heard gunshots, the department said in a news release Friday.
Tampa Fire Rescue personnel found James in a 2015 blue Dodge Challenger with multiple bullet holes that was resting against the center concrete guardrail, officials said at the time. He was taken to St. Joseph’s Hospital, where he later died.
The investigation into James’ death led detectives to link three suspects: Rapheal Tyree Thomas, 23; Tyrone James Ellis, 23; and Donte Moses Turner, 17, police said.
The agency did not say what evidence led detectives to arrest them.
Thomas currently is in jail in Sumter County on charges of first-degree murder and aggravated battery with a firearm, according to court records, and the state has filed a notice of its intention to seek the death penalty.
The charges are related to a June 20, 2021, shooting in Wildwood involving other members of James’ family, according to Tampa police. The Sumter County Sheriff’s Office investigated the case.
According to Thomas’ arrest affidavit, Sumter deputies responded to a large Father’s Day gathering held annually for residents of the Royal Park community in the Wildwood area.
Just after 8 p.m., authorities say, Thomas shot a 9mm handgun multiple times in the crowd’s direction. Nine people in total were shot, the affidavit said. James’ stepbrother, Luis Carr V, 20, and James’ sister, Cornecia Quanshay Smikle, 25, were among those shot, Tampa police said Friday, and Smikle later died from her injuries. Eight others were hospitalized.
One victim of the shooting, who was not named in the affidavit, said she knew Thomas because he was a suspect in a Hillsborough County shooting involving her relative. Another witness, the mother of the unnamed victim, said she was walking near a vendor at the gathering when she saw Thomas. The two made eye contact, the affidavit said, and that was when he pulled out a gun and began shooting.
Thomas and Ellison both are facing charges of first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit first-degree murder and shooting into a vehicle for the shooting of James, while Turner is facing a charge of conspiracy to commit first-degree murder, according to Tampa police.
This is a developing story. Stay with tampabay.com for updates.