ST. PETERSBURG — Tyron Jackasal was riding in a stolen SUV when he found his target on March 30, police say. The Nissan Pathfinder had been following a black Volvo that evening. Then it stopped for a red light at 18th Avenue S and 22nd Street S.
Jackasal got out of the passenger seat of the SUV and started shooting, police say.
He was aiming for the Volvo’s driver, but police say he instead shot and killed the passenger, K’Mia Simmons.
The 21-year-old mother of two suffered a gunshot wound in her upper body that somehow missed the year-old daughter she was holding. Another bullet missed her 2-year-old daughter in the backseat.
Jackasal, 20, was arrested Wednesday on a charge of second-degree murder in Simmons’ death, and St. Petersburg police shed new light on the case — but some questions are still unanswered.
The man he was targeting was Parise Lovett Jr., said St. Petersburg police Chief Anthony Holloway at a Wednesday news conference. Lovett is the father of the girl Simmons was holding when she died.
Lovett is also acquainted with a man Jackasal is accused of shooting and robbing of a $30,000 gold necklace in early March, police say, and he was going after the shooting victim’s associates for reasons police cannot explain.
“Jackasal was just trying to find all the friends of a guy he robbed,” Holloway said, adding that investigators don’t know what dispute lies at the heart of the shootings.
Lovett fled after the shooting. Almost a week after Simmons’ family pleaded for him to come forward, the chief said investigators finally interviewed him Wednesday, after Lovett was arrested on a warrant for failing to appear in court in a different case.
Lovett told police Jackasal was the one who fired on them on March 30, Holloway said.
“He was scared,” he said. “This is a guy who came after one of his associates.”
To Simmons’ family, who will bury the young mother on Saturday, Jackasal’s arrest provides some relief. But they are far from peace, they said Wednesday at their own news conference. Simmons was the youngest of seven siblings.
“It feels good that she can rest because who did this to her is behind bars,” said oldest sister Lashawn Laster. “But we would give it all up if we could just have her back.”
Mother Linda Simmons said she hopes prosecutors pursue the death penalty in the murder of her youngest daughter.
“I want to be able to look into his eyes as he suffers,” she said. “Y’all want to know what would make me happy? That would make me happy.”
When Jackasal was arrested on the murder charge he was already in the Pinellas County jail. He was first arrested Monday on a charge of robbery with a deadly weapon in a March 5 incident that led to K’Mia Simmons’ death.
That incident involves a $30,000 14-karat Cuban link gold chain and took place outside a shopping plaza at 2943 Sixth St. S.
The chain’s owner told police that he went to a barber shop to get a haircut, and when he entered noticed Jackasal leave. Police did not release the name of the man.
After his haircut, the man was sitting in his vehicle when he said Jackasal and two others robbed him at gunpoint of the gold necklace. He fought with the armed robbers, police said, and they shot him several times.
Police said he identified two of his attackers via their social media: Jackasal and Deontrae Robson, 22. The man was hospitalized after the shooting but on Wednesday police did not disclose his current medical condition.
Robson was also arrested Monday on charges of robbery with a deadly weapon, sale or delivery of crack cocaine and possession of crack cocaine. He was being held in the Pinellas County jail in lieu of $262,000 bail. Jackasal is being held without bail.
St. Petersburg police said they are seeking a third person in connection with the robbery.
Simmons’ death is also part of a wide-ranging crisis in St. Petersburg — where police have now recorded 13 homicides this year, compared to 15 in all of 2020 — and across the country, as nationwide gun deaths spiked last year.
Laster and Linda Simmons called for stricter gun laws, accountability for gun manufacturers and community action. None of those things would bring back K’Mia Simmons, they acknowledged, but her mother believed God had a plan, and she said she believed that “something great is going to happen behind this.”
Making change will require action, Laster said, not just promises by politicians or community leaders.
“They done made promises a million times, but if you followed them, we wouldn’t be standing here today,” she said. “No one wants to do anything until it hits your front door.”