ST. PETERSBURG — The bond agents arrived in the dark Tuesday morning, banging on the door and waking the women and children sleeping inside.
One of the agents, who didn't identify himself, told 24-year-old Curtisha Cason they were looking for Deveon Stokes, the father of her 5-month-old daughter. Stokes owed him money and had made threats to harm him, the man said.
"He was asking me if I had an insurance policy on my baby's father," Cason said Friday, "because he was going to kill him."
The agents said they needed to find him by Wednesday, Cason said. And they did.
It happened about 2:30 p.m. Wednesday at the McDonald's drive-through at 4595 34 St. S. Bond agents surrounded a sedan Stokes was in, trying to capture him after he had skipped a $21,000 bail for a cocaine possession charge, according to St. Petersburg police. Moments later, police said that one of the bond agents shot 29-year-old Vonceia S. Welch, who was sitting in the passenger seat of the car. Police said Friday she remained hospitalized, but is responsive and in stable condition.
Stokes, 26, and a childhood friend who was at the wheel of the car, Joshua Allonso Malone, described their experiences during separate interviews from the Pinellas County Jail on Friday.
Malone, also 26, said he and his girlfriend, Welch, picked up Stokes, a friend from when he attended Osceola Middle School, and headed to McDonald's to grab some food. While Malone was idling in the drive-through, Stokes said something alarming.
"I'm wanted, man. They have a warrant for my arrest," Malone remembered Stokes saying.
Malone wanted nothing to do with it. He decided right away to take Stokes home as soon as they got their food. But just after he ordered the Chicken McNuggets combo for himself and hot cakes for his girlfriend, a man walked up and stuck a pistol through the cracked passenger-side window.
"It looked like a movie robbery," Malone said. "I was scared."
He said he panicked and stepped on the gas, crashing into a Chrysler Crossfire that had pulled up to box him in. That's when the gun went off, striking Welch in the hand and top of the head.
Meanwhile, Stokes said the agents pulled him from the car and put him into the sport utility vehicle the gunman had emerged from.
Stokes said the agents told him it was all his fault. That if Stokes hadn't run or made threats to kill one of the agents, they wouldn't have done it this way. Stokes denied that he threatened anyone.
"The only reason he would say that is to cover his tracks," Stokes said.
The man with the gun was 45-year-old Darrell Ingram, working for Kyle's Kwik Bail Bonds, police said. Two other bond agents — Carolyn Hope, 61, and Marcus Long, 41 — were also in the SUV. The driver of the blue sports car was Ivey Dale Persha, 44.
Detectives are continuing to review the case with the Pasco-Pinellas State Attorney's Office to decide whether charges against the bail agents are warranted.
"Certainly we're concerned about the way this went down," said St. Petersburg assistant police Chief James Previtera on Thursday.
Citing the ongoing investigation, detectives on Friday could not confirm Cason's account that the bond agents had threatened Tuesday morning to kill Stokes.
Marcus and Persha could not be reached Friday, and a woman who answered a phone listed for Hope declined to comment on Thursday.
Tampa-based lawyer Mark O'Brien is representing the bond agent who fired the shot.
"Mr. Ingram is a family man and a hard worker and has been a bail bondsman for quite some time," O'Brien said Thursday night. "And we just are going to await all of the facts in the case so that the proper decision can be made."
On both sides, criminal histories show up for some of those involved. Persha has been arrested on charges of smuggling contraband and aggravated assault. In 2001, he was acquitted for first degree murder.
Stokes has served time for extortion and grand theft of a motor vehicle before the cocaine possession charges he skipped bail on. Malone has also gone to prison for cocaine charges. He was arrested later Wednesday on aggravated assault and firearm possession charges for an incident in which police say he shot at three people, one of them a toddler. No one was hurt. Malone denies involvement in the shooting.
At the jail Friday, Malone said that Ingram tried to blame the shooting on him, claiming he tried to run Ingram over. But that doesn't add up because his car was blocked in, Malone said.
"He (Stokes) shouldn't have run, but that didn't justify that man shooting," Malone said.
Stokes, who is being held on charges of failure to appear, cocaine possession and driving without a valid license, doesn't think the shot was an accident either. Based on what the bond agents told Cason, his girlfriend, they intended to hurt him, he said. He added that he feels terrible for involving Malone and Welch in the ordeal. He didn't think it would get to this point.
"I've been crying every day since it happened," he said. "Sometimes I still hear the gunshot. It's just ringing in my head."
Meanwhile, Malone's girlfriend of 2½ months remains hospitalized. He hasn't been able to see her or check on her four young children. He recalled removing his T-shirt and pressing it to her head, comforting her as she moaned through the pain, then watching the ambulance pull away from the chaotic scene.
"I'm going crazy not knowing," he said.
He is trying to find the $2,500 he needs to get out of jail. He's well on his way but said he may need to use a bail bondsman to provide the rest of the cash.
Contact Kathryn Varn at (727) 893-8913 or email@example.com. Follow @kathrynvarn.