ST. PETERSBURG — Customers, neighbors and friends pulled into the parking lot of the ATL Barber Shop and Salon on Wednesday as word spread that owner Anthony Tyrone Link had been found shot to death in his car a few blocks away.
They came to pay their respects and remember a man who saw his shop as more than a business.
“He was an asset to our community,” said Sylvia King, 69, who left flowers alongside other bouquets and a teddy bear in front of Link’s barbershop. “He had a good heart.”
Link used to come to her house to cut her sons’ hair, King said. She would bake oatmeal raisin cookies for him.
Officers responded about 11:53 p.m. Tuesday to a report of a Mercedes-Benz that had crashed on the 1500 block of 26th St S, in the Wildwood Heights neighborhood, according to St. Petersburg police.
They found Link, 37, inside, apparently shot. The scene was about half a mile from the barbershop at 2910 18th Ave S.
Quran Wallace, 28, said he started getting haircuts from Link at age 15. Just a couple days ago, Wallace and Link had been chatting at a bowling alley. Link advised Wallace to be safe, and to always put his kids first.
Wallace heard about Link’s death after waking up and checking Facebook on Wednesday morning. It was the first post he saw.
“The city took a big loss,” Wallace said. “I know I did.”
By 2017, Link had operated his shop on 18th Avenue South for about five years, according to a Weekly Challenger story published that year about Link’s participation in the annual MLK Day of Service. Link planned to give away free hair products and host guest speakers “to bring positive messages ... to our youth,” according to the story.
In 2016, Link posted on his Instagram page a photo of him cutting the hair of St. Petersburg Police Chief Anthony Holloway.
In February 2019, Link posted a photo of the shop to celebrate six years in business and a new paint job on the shop.
“Started from a backpack walking and not giving up on my goal or dream,” the post says. “I know its (sic) might be small but I’m very grateful and thankful...I’m still sacrificing and striving to become greater.”
Link’s shop was the scene of fatal gun violence in April 2016, when 31-year-old Dontavion Fleming was shot in the parking lot. Fleming’s 11-year-old son, who was in the shop with his three younger brothers, saw his father fall and ran to him after the shooting, the Times reported at the time.
About a week later, police arrested 20-year-old Hopeton Johnson, who admitted to waiting for Fleming to leave the barber shop and taking money from his pocket after the shooting, records show. Johnson pleaded guilty in 2019 to second-degree murder and was sentenced to 25 years in state prison.
Investigators asked that anyone with information on Link’s shooting call the St. Petersburg Police Department at 727-893-7780. Anonymous tips can also be sent by text message to 847411. Start the message with the letters SPPD followed by the tip.
Staff writer Boyzell Hosey contributed to this report.