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St. Pete rapper Rod Wave released after charges ‘determined not to be accurate’

The arrest was connected to a shooting in St. Petersburg on Sunday night in which four people were hurt, police say.
 
Rod Wave is seen onstage during his SoulFly tour concert at the MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre in Tampa in 2021. The rapper, whose real name is Rodarius Green, was arrested Wednesday on weapons charges, but he was released after the charges were found to be inaccurate, a police spokesperson said.
Rod Wave is seen onstage during his SoulFly tour concert at the MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre in Tampa in 2021. The rapper, whose real name is Rodarius Green, was arrested Wednesday on weapons charges, but he was released after the charges were found to be inaccurate, a police spokesperson said. [ IVY CEBALLO | Times ]
Published April 3|Updated April 5

After gunfire tore through a group of people gathered outside a St. Petersburg bar on Easter Sunday, it didn’t take long for detectives to identify suspects.

St. Petersburg police were familiar with five men who documents state were seen in surveillance video that showed the shooting. The men had been identified to be associated with two St. Petersburg area gangs, according to police and court documents.

By Wednesday evening, all five had been arrested.

So, too, was a high-profile associate: Rodarius Marcell Green, also known as St. Petersburg rapper Rod Wave, who was arrested Wednesday in Manatee County on two counts of possessing ammunition as a convicted felon.

Hours later, however, St. Petersburg police realized they’d made a mistake: Green was not, in fact, a convicted felon. He was released from jail in Manatee County after the error was discovered.

Green has not been charged in connection to Sunday’s shooting and police said investigators don’t know if he was involved. One of Green’s attorneys has denied that he identifies with any gang.

Court documents and information provided by St. Petersburg police this week outline how Green is connected to the investigation that has led to multiple charges for the five men arrested. Police have also provided a more detailed explanation for the error that led to Green’s arrest on the ammunition possession charge.

An Easter Sunday shooting

By about 10:30 p.m. Sunday, a large group had gathered outside the Sonic Sports Bar and Lounge, 400 49th St. S.

According to arrest warrants filed in the shooting case, surveillance video obtained by detectives showed the driver of a blue Infiniti SUV pull up and park in the bar’s lot at 10:29 p.m. Elias Torres, 32, got out of the driver’s door.

The Infiniti is registered to Green, according to police and court documents.

At 10:48 p.m., the video shows four men — Christopher Atkins, Willie Cookinson, Kevontre Wesby and Keith Wesby — cross 49th Street and meet with Torres, who points east, where the shooting would happen moments later, according to affidavits.

The men walked to the east and Cookinson, Atkins and the two Wesby men fired multiple rounds into a large group of people, affidavits state. Torres was present but did not fire.

All five men headed back to the Infiniti, and Torres got into the driver’s seat and headed west on Fourth Avenue South.

St. Petersburg police Detective Mallory Marzo states in affidavits that she is familiar with the men because she has been investigating the Young Gangsters and OMBNC gangs and their associates since March 2022, and that she was using hidden surveillance cameras to monitor a home on the 500 block of Palm Avenue.

The men have been seen arriving at and leaving that home, records state.

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The cameras at Palm Avenue showed the Infiniti SUV pulling up to the house at 11:03 p.m. and Torres getting out. Given the distance from the Sonic bar scene to the house, investigators believe Torres drove directly to the home after the shooting.

A photo composite released by the St. Petersburg Police Department on Thursday shows a screenshot from surveillance video that shows suspects shooting at people outside the Sonic Lounge and Bar at 400 49th St. S on Easter Sunday. The photos at the bottom are the five suspects who have been arrested in connection to the shooting, which injured four people.
A photo composite released by the St. Petersburg Police Department on Thursday shows a screenshot from surveillance video that shows suspects shooting at people outside the Sonic Lounge and Bar at 400 49th St. S on Easter Sunday. The photos at the bottom are the five suspects who have been arrested in connection to the shooting, which injured four people. [ St. Petersburg Police Department ]

Police spoke with the four people who were shot that night.

A 28-year-old woman said she heard shots and started running and realized she’d been hit in the shoulder. A 24-year-old man said he started running when the shots rang out and was hit in the ankle.

Another man, 27, said he ran when the gunfire started and was hit in the left arm and hand. And a 17-year-old girl was shot in the left arm while running away.

Police obtained search warrants for the Palm Avenue home and another one in Manatee County.

Both homes are rented by Green, according to police.

On Monday evening, the St. Petersburg Police Department’s SWAT team served the search warrant at the St. Petersburg house. Police said multiple items were seized, including five rifles, five handguns, ammunition and more than $10,000 in cash. Police arrested two men who were in the home, but they have not been charged in connection to the shooting.

According to the probable cause affidavit for Green’s arrest, police along with the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office searched the Manatee County home on Wednesday. During the search, police found live ammunition and a slide to a handgun in the kitchen, the affidavit states. The affidavit says that multiple items in the home had Green’s name on them.

Green was there, too, and police arrested him on two counts of illegally possessing ammunition as a convicted felon.

The affidavit says Green was convicted of a felony in Pinellas County on Nov. 16, 2017, for carrying a concealed firearm. But court records from the case show Green pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of carrying a concealed weapon on that day.

“If you took two minutes to look at his record online, you would see that he’s not a convicted felon. And these are police officers that know how to check somebody’s criminal record,” Green’s attorney, Mark Rankin, said in an interview Wednesday.

Police spokesperson Yolanda Fernandez confirmed Wednesday that the arrest was made in error and on Thursday provided more details.

When detectives learned that Green was there with men whom detectives were arresting in connection to the Sonic shooting, St. Petersburg police Detective Eric Sireni called the department’s Emergency Communications Center to inquire on Green’s status, Fernandez said in an email to the Tampa Bay Times.

Sireni “was given inaccurate information on Green’s prior conviction,” Fernandez said. “Although Green had been previously arrested for a felony, the charge was reduced and he was ultimately convicted of a misdemeanor. Hours later, when the error was discovered, Green was released.”

Fernandez said an internal review is being done on the Emergency Communications employee who made the mistake.

An “enabler”?

At a news conference Wednesday, police announced that three suspects had been arrested earlier that day in connection with the Sonic bar shooting: Kevontre Wesby, 20; Keith Wesby, 21; and Atkins, 24.

St. Petersburg Assistant Police Chief Mike Kovacsev said during the news conference that investigators believe one of the men, later identified as Torres, “had a beef” with someone there and called over the four other men.

Kovacsev said the suspects fired more than 60 rounds, and some struck occupied and unoccupied vehicles. He said investigators do not believe any of the people who were shot were the intended targets or did anything wrong.

Kovacsev acknowledged reporters had questions about Green.

“But this isn’t about him,” Kovacsev said. “This is more about this case and I want to make sure we stay on point. This was a mass shooting that the detectives did a terrific job to be able to close that out.”

Firearms and other evidence gathered during the search of both homes would assist in the Sonic shooting and other cases, Kovacsev said. He said that a BMW recovered at the Palm Avenue house has been linked to “several” other shootings in the city.

Kovacsev said that police did not know whether Green was involved in the Sonic shooting.

“We don’t know if he was there that evening when shots were fired. We don’t know if he had anything to do with it at that point,” Kovacsev said. “It’s more of a fact that you have vehicles, you have residences, you have a complicity here ... and we can’t ignore it.”

He said police would work with the Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney’s Office to determine if Green would be charged based on evidence gathered so far.

“You don’t want to be an enabler, and if people are going to do things that are criminal or illegal, you don’t necessarily want to be a part of that, and I would hope he would distance himself from individuals who would do things of this nature,” Kovacsev said.

Green grew up in St. Petersburg’s Cromwell Heights neighborhood. He began developing his musical career in high school, and in 2018 he signed with startup label Alamo Records, which was later acquired by Sony. In 2020, his song “Heart on Ice” became popular on TikTok and broke the Billboard Hot 100.

He was arrested in Pinellas County in 2022 on a domestic battery charge out of Osceola County that was later dropped. That same year, he made headlines for giving away $25,000 worth of free gas in St. Petersburg.

In an update Thursday morning, police announced that the last two of the five Sonic shooting suspects — Cookinson and Torres — had turned themselves in Wednesday evening.

All five suspects were booked into the Pinellas County Jail, records show.

Kevontre Wesby faces charges of attempted second-degree murder and illegally possessing a firearm as a delinquent. He was released early Thursday on a $265,000 bond, records show.

Keith Wesby and Atkins were each booked on a charge of attempted second-degree murder. Both were released early Thursday on a $250,000 bond.

Cookinson, 24, was booked on charges of attempted second-degree murder and illegally possessing a firearm as a felon. He was released Wednesday night on a $300,000 bond, records show.

Torres was booked on a charge of being a principal to attempted second-degree murder. He was released Wednesday night on a $250,000 bond.

Kevontre Wesby and Keith Wesby did not immediately respond Thursday to voicemail messages left at numbers listed for them in court documents. The Times was not immediately able to find working numbers for Atkins, Cookinson and Torres.

Times staff writer Lesley Cosme Torres contributed to this report.