Hillsborough sheriff's report details prior gun incident at home of Levonia Riggins

Published Sept. 21, 2016

CLAIR-MEL — Late one night the year before he died, Levonia Riggins stormed into his family's Clair-Mel home in a panic.

He told his parents and two other people to turn off all the lights and lie on the floor.

"They coming to shoot up the house," he said.

The family lay in the dark for 15 minutes before Riggins' adoptive mother, Jessie Williams, phoned authorities. Minutes later, as a Hillsborough County sheriff's deputy pulled up to the quiet residential street, Riggins stepped out and hustled around the north side of the house. It was there, and in the back yard, that the deputy later found a pair of handguns.

Details of the 2015 incident are part of a report the Sheriff's Office released last week, more than two weeks after SWAT Deputy Caleb Johnson shot and killed Riggins while helping serve a search warrant on his home.

Riggins, 22, was unarmed. Amid questions about why the Sheriff's Office used the specialty team to serve a search warrant, officials pointed to the prior call to Riggins' home, which led them to suspect he might have access to guns.

Sheriff's Deputy Jimmy Cook investigated the Aug. 12, 2015, call, which was reported as a "disturbance," at 1432 Longwood Loop. When he arrived, he found 20-year-old Leevon Harris in a carport adjacent to the home. Harris told the deputy that Riggins, upon seeing Sheriff's Office cars pull up, had run to the north side of the house, into the back yard.

Cook walked to the north side, about 15 yards from where Harris sat. There, on the ground, was a weathered, loaded 9mm semiautomatic handgun.

Cook frisked Harris and put him in his patrol car. He spoke with Riggins' family and several other people who were in the house. He was told that Riggins was inside taking a shower.

Riggins later came to the front door with a bath towel wrapped around his waist, according to the report. He first denied being outside when the deputies arrived, then admitted he had been outside with Harris. The deputy asked if Riggins knew anything about a gun found on the property.

"I don't know anything about that gun," Riggins said, gesturing to the north side of the house. The deputy noted in the report that he had not told Riggins where the gun was found.

The family told Cook to check if Riggins' bedroom window was locked, according to the report. He again walked around the north side of the house and into the back yard. Near a back patio, the deputy found a second gun, a .22-caliber revolver.

The revolver was found on the home's northeast corner. Riggins' bedroom window was on the southeast corner.

No one in the house claimed to own firearms.

Harris told the deputy that Riggins was known to carry a gun, according to the report. He said the last time he saw Riggins with a gun was about two weeks earlier. It was, he said, "one of those guns with the thing that spins."

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Riggins denied touching either weapon. He noted that he was a felon, making it illegal for him to possess firearms. He said that someone named "Quan" told him people from the city were coming to shoot up the house, the report stated.

With little else to go on, and no proof of a crime, the deputy impounded the weapons and wrote the report. Both guns later underwent testing for fingerprints and DNA, but no usable information resulted.

The matter was forgotten, until 11 months later.

In late July and early August, undercover Hillsborough sheriff's detectives twice bought marijuana from Riggins outside the Get-N-Go convenience store at 78th Street and Rideout Road, sheriff's officials have said. He invited them to come back to his home if they wanted more.

The detectives later drafted an application for a search warrant at the home. In doing so, they read the report of the previous incident. The guns were part of what prompted them to use the SWAT unit to execute the warrant.

As the team descended on the home early Aug. 30, Riggins ignored numerous commands to come out of the house, sheriff's officials said. Deputy Johnson broke through his bedroom window, saw Riggins wriggling under bedsheets, and told him to show his hands. Riggins slipped between the bed and the wall before jumping up and reaching toward his waistband, officials said. Johnson, fearing that Riggins was reaching for a weapon, shot him.

The death inflamed racial tensions in the working-class neighborhood. The days that followed saw protests and some small riots.

A Hillsborough sheriff's investigation of the shooting is ongoing. Gov. Rick Scott last week ordered Sarasota State Attorney Ed Brodsky to oversee a review of the case. Hillsborough State Attorney Mark Ober recused himself, citing personal connections to the deputy's family.

Days after Riggins was killed, detectives re-examined the weapons from the 2015 incident. They managed to trace the 9mm gun to a firearms dealer in Lake City. The weapon, according to a report, had been sold in 1994 to a man named Benson Wilkins, who lived nearby.

Wilkins died in 1996. Detectives were unable to determine how the gun ended up at Riggins' home in Tampa.

Contact Dan Sullivan at or (813) 226-3386. Follow @TimesDan.