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Three family members found dead in St. Pete home after SWAT team response

A man was taken into custody. He is the suspect in a shooting earlier this month.
St. Petersburg police evacuated nearby homes and sent in the SWAT team after reports of a shooting at a St. Petersburg home. They knocked down the front of the house in order to get the victims to rescue crews and took Cornelius "Cornbread" Whitfield into custody.
St. Petersburg police evacuated nearby homes and sent in the SWAT team after reports of a shooting at a St. Petersburg home. They knocked down the front of the house in order to get the victims to rescue crews and took Cornelius "Cornbread" Whitfield into custody. [ St. Petersburg Police Department ]
Published Feb. 16
Updated Feb. 18

ST. PETERSBURG — Three relatives were found dead inside a St. Petersburg home Tuesday after a shooting that led to a SWAT team response.

Cornelius “Cornbread” Whitfield, 31, was taken into custody by St. Petersburg police, Chief Anthony Holloway said during a news conference. Whitfield is the suspect in another shooting this month that left one man dead and another injured. He is expected to face charges connected to all four homicides and two attempted homicides, Holloway said.

St. Petersburg Police identified the victims Tuesday night as all being direct relatives of the suspect.

Patricia Ann Whitfield Sharpe, 66, was his grandmother. Sallie Hobbs Whitfield, 83, was his great-grandmother. And Antonio Maurice Graham, 45, was his uncle. All three were killed by gunfire, police said.

A 2-year-old girl found in the house was not hurt. Another woman injured in the shooting is expected to survive, Holloway said.

About 4 p.m. Tuesday, the woman called police to a home at 2968 Emerson Ave. S, saying she’d been shot and had run to a neighbor’s house, according to police. Whitfield lived in the home, Holloway said. Officers arrived and learned the shooter was still inside and that other people were inside with him.

St. Petersburg Police and residents look on near the scene of a deadly shooting Tuesday in St. Petersburg.
St. Petersburg Police and residents look on near the scene of a deadly shooting Tuesday in St. Petersburg. [ MARTHA ASENCIO-RHINE | Times ]

Officers began evacuating houses nearby and called in the SWAT team. They broke down the front wall of the house to get inside, where they found the victims and took Whitfield into custody.

Whitfield was wanted in a Feb. 3 shooting at the Emerald Pointe Apartments, 175 73rd Ave. N, that killed 31-year-old Darren Lorenzo Barnes Jr. and seriously injured another man. The police department issued a news release identifying Whitfield as “armed and dangerous” and offering a $3,000 award for information that led to his arrest.

Whitfield knew Barnes and the victims of Tuesday’s shooting, Holloway said.

“Everyone that was involved in this the suspect knew,” he said. “It wasn’t random.”

Whitfield had been released from prison in November, according to Florida Department of Corrections records. He was serving a three-year sentence for drug trafficking, possession of MDMA and marijuana, and fleeing and eluding law enforcement. It was his second state prison sentence. In 2007, Whitfield was sentenced to two years for cocaine possession.

A crowd gathered at the home late Tuesday as forensics and medical examiner’s workers processed the area. Marco Smith, 33, said he and Whitfield had attended Gibbs High School together and he drove over to check out the scene.

“I grew up with the dude,” Smith said. “I never knew he’d turn out like that.”

The scene of a deadly shooting in St. Petersburg.
The scene of a deadly shooting in St. Petersburg. [ MARTHA ASENCIO RHINE | Times ]

A neighbor, 31-year-old Quinisha Jackson, said she also went to school with Whitfield, at Osceola Middle, and said he was a nice kid. She said she saw Whitfield’s picture on TV after the first shooting.

“He didn’t look like the person when I knew him,” Jackson said.

Several kids live at Whitfield’s home, she said, and often played with her three kids.

“It’s real scary to know that we had someone that close acting out like that,” she said. “It could’ve been a moment one of my kids could’ve been over there.”

A fundraiser for surviving members of the Whitfield family has been organized on GoFundMe.

Correction: Quinisha Jackson is 31. An earlier version of this story gave an incorrect age.