TAMPA — One night in January, two teens broke into an apartment in the Citrus Park area, one of them armed. A man who lived there shot them both and only one survived.
Two other teens stopped by deputies at the apartment complex were likely involved in the home invasion, the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office reported at the time. The office said all four suspects were Gaither High School students and that criminal charges in the case were forthcoming. No names were released.
Seven months later, the case remains open. But records obtained by the Tampa Bay Times this week show that investigators believe one teen linked to the crime is Graham Ivan Clark, who drew international attention Friday when he was charged with taking control of celebrity Twitter accounts to solicit Bitcoin payments.
The home invasion case appears in a “name report” for the 17-year-old Clark that was generated by the Sheriff’s Office at the Times’ request. The investigation is listed as “murder-justifiable homicide.”
Just how Clark was involved remains unclear. The Sheriff’s Office declined to elaborate, saying the investigation remains active. When the Times asked for the case report, the office provided 13 pages, most of them redacted, from a document that’s at least 652 pages.
In addition, during an unrelated investigation in June, Clark’s mother told a deputy “that ever since her son was involved in a homicide at the beginning of the year, he has been harassed by several individuals.” The deputy looked up the home invasion case and noted that Clark “did not actively participate in the shooting.”
Clark’s family declined to comment for this story.
Asked whether Clark was involved in the home invasion, Hillsborough State Attorney Andrew Warren’s office gave this statement:
“There is no proof of what his role was and he was not in the apartment when the shooting took place, although it’s not surprising that he had connections with other criminal investigations, considering he was the mastermind of a sophisticated global fraud.”
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According to information on the home invasion previously released by the Sheriff’s Office, two of the teens kicked in a screened back patio about 7:30 p.m. Jan. 4 in the Seasons at Westchase apartments, off Sheldon Road near the Citrus Park mall. The teens then entered the apartment through an unlocked door.
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One of them was carrying a firearm. Both made demands of the residents, a man and his fiancée. The man retrieved a gun and opened fire, hitting both teens, according to the Sheriff’s Office.
Both suspects were taken to St. Joseph’s Hospital. One was pronounced dead there. The other was listed in critical condition at the time. Neither of the residents was injured.
“When patrol deputies first arrived on scene, they located a suspicious vehicle with two teenagers inside,” a Sheriff’s Office news release said. “They conducted a traffic stop on the vehicle at the entrance of the apartment complex, and through talking to the driver and passenger, deputies determined the two were likely involved in the home invasion as well.”
The Sheriff’s Office confirmed the four suspects were age 16 to 17 and attended Gaither. The office did not release a motive but said detectives did not believe the home invasion was random.
On Jan. 6, the day before students returned to school after winter break, Gaither principal Thomas Morrill sent an email to parents with the subject line, “Welcome Back and Disheartening Information.”
“You may have heard news from over the weekend of a home invasion at an apartment complex,” Morrill wrote. “The Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office says four teens were involved in the incident and we have learned that the teens were students at our school.”
Morrill noted that one student died and one was in critical condition. He said the school had no information about the identities of the students.
“The other students who were involved, face serious charges and will not be returning to our school,” Morrill wrote.
A Sheriff’s Office name report shows 17-year-old Carlos Alejandro Lopez Cancela was also linked to the home invasion case and lists him as a Gaither student.
According to his obituary, Lopez died on Jan. 4, the day of the home invasion. The Hillsborough County Medical Examiner’s Office declined to provide Lopez’s autopsy and associated records, citing an exemption in state public records law for active criminal investigations.
A GoFundMe page was created to help Lopez’s mother with funeral arrangements for a son who “was taken too soon.” The page describes Lopez as “a loving and caring son full of life and a bright future.” His family did not respond to a request for comment from the Times in time for publication.
Sheriff’s Office records include the name of a third teen linked to the home invasion investigation and list him as a “friend” of Lopez’s. The Times is not publishing the name of the teen, who turned 17 four days before the home invasion, because he has not been charged with a crime.
A GoFundMe page created Jan. 12 says this teen’s mother “received news that no mother ever wants to hear” on Jan. 4: Her son was in “critical condition ... with a fragmented bullet in his brain.” The page sought donations to help the family with “the financial burden” associated with his recovery.
The boy’s mother declined to be interviewed when reached by the Times on Tuesday. “He is a minor and I do not want his name in the media at all or associated with Graham Clark in any way,” she said in a Facebook message.
Public posts on her Facebook page through the month of January chronicle her son’s recovery. A Jan. 29 post says he was undergoing speech therapy and had passed a cognitive test “with flying colors.”
• • •
The unrelated case that prompted a deputy’s interview with Clark’s mother stemmed from a “swatting” investigation in June, according to an incident report. Swatting is online lingo for false reports to police about violent crime inside a home, filed in hopes of drawing out a SWAT team.
On June 26, WFTS-Ch. 28 in Tampa received an email from someone claiming to be Clark. It contained threats to kill Clark’s parents and shoot minorities, protesters and students on school campuses unless the recipient sent him $500,000, the incident report says. The phone number included in the email was linked to a company owned by Clark’s stepfather, according to the report.
When a deputy called the stepfather on June 27, he handed the phone to Clark’s mother, who said she believed her son was being targeted.
“Emiliya Clark advised that ever since her son was involved in a homicide at the beginning of the year, he has been harassed by several individuals,” the report says. It lists the the home invasion case number for reference.
The deputy then talked to Clark.
“Graham Clark advised he has never sent out threatening emails and has never threatened his parents,” the report states. “He has been (a) victim to swatting in the past and believes it to be the unknown people on the internet he interacts with.”
The deputy looked up the home invasion case and noted that Clark “did not actively participate in the shooting,” the report says.
The deputy concluded that Graham was the target of a swatting call. The report says Clark was the subject of another swatting call a year earlier that resulted “after Graham Clark made someone mad in an online game.”
In a New York Times report Sunday, friends and acquaintances of Clark’ described him as an adept scammer who cheated people out of their money in the video game Minecraft.
Clark is accused of gaining access to prominent Twitter accounts and sending tweets soliciting others to send in payments of the Bitcoin, the hard-to-track cryptocurrency. Prosecutors say Clark reaped $117,000 over about three hours. He pleaded not guilty to the charges Tuesday in Hillsborough Circuit Court.
Staff writers Josh Solomon, Marlene Sokol and Peter Talbot contributed to this report.