TAMPA — Detectives didn’t have to go far to find the suspect in a fatal shooting outside a Tampa birthday party.
Witnesses told them a man named “Jo-Jo” had shot and killed 29-year-old Lendon Delenar Vernon at about 1:20 a.m. Saturday outside The Banquet Hall, 10101 E Hillsborough Ave.
After hours of interviews, a review of security footage, and additional investigation, detectives with the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office identified Jo-Jo as Jonathan Millage Crist, 24, of Thonotosassa.
Meantime, Crist had gotten himself arrested by Tampa police on unrelated drug and weapons charges — just 10 minutes after the shooting and about six miles to the west. Police said they had stopped Crist after he blew a stop sign.
The detectives looking to charge Crist with premeditated first-degree murder found him in the Hillsborough County Jail on Orient Road. He was arrested on the new charge about 2:50 a.m. Saturday.
Arrest reports from the Sheriff’s Office and Tampa police gave this account of the incident.
Deputies answering a 911 call about the shooting arrived to find a man lying in the parking lot of The Banquet Hall. He later died at Tampa General Hospital.
The owner of business, Dwight Blake, told detectives the shooting occurred as the birthday party was clearing out. Authorities earlier had identified the shooting scene as Club 92.
Blake had reviewed video surveillance from outside the hall and saw the shooting unfold — a man he had met earlier in the evening firing a weapon at another man again and again then speeding off in a white vehicle.
Later in the morning, detectives interviewed a relative of Vernon’s who said “Jo-Jo ” shot Vernon for talking to a woman who may be Jo-Jo’s girlfriend. Another connection between the two, the relative said: Vernon has a child with another woman who had cheated on him with Crist.
Detectives also interviewed Marcus Young, a man who was sitting with Vernon in a car outside the hall when a woman approached, said something to them, then walked away. Then a man who had been watching the encounter from a white Volkswagen nearby drew a gun and fired at Vernon a number of times, Young told detectives.
Young said he chased after the man on foot as the man fled in the Volkswagen.
A speeding white Volkswagen came to the attention of Tampa police just after 1:30 p.m. as it ran a stop sign at 34th Street N and Lindell Avenue E. Soon after, the car pulled into a gas station and the driver dropped an object — later found to be a stolen revolver — into a trash can.
Police pulled the car over and found cocaine and marijuana inside.
When he was arrested on the murder charge, Crist was being held in jail on Tampa police charges of tampering with physical evidence, carrying a concealed firearm and possession of cociane and marijuana.
Contact Sam Ogozalek at email@example.com or (813) 226-3430. Follow @SamOgozalek.