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  1. Pinellas

Largo man had ill feelings for two women before shooting attack

LARGO — The 39-year-old man who critically wounded two women in a shooting attack outside their apartment had a history of run-ins with those neighbors over noise complaints and threats of violence.

That's according to Largo police reports and neighbors, which describe the hostile atmosphere leading up to Tuesday night's shooting. Kenneth James Prince now faces three counts of attempted murder.

But a friend said Prince is a military veteran who struggled with post traumatic stress disorder and was once homeless.

The shooting victims remained hospitalized on Thursday. Marguerite Williams was shot in the head, police said, and was still on life support at a local hospital. Chantel Johnson was shot in the neck. Both suffered life-threatening gunshot wounds.

"I knew he and his neighbors were having difficulties because he was complaining about the noise," said resident Freddie Delgado, 52, who knew Prince. "But it didn't have cause to go that far.

"To shoot somebody over loud noise, it's ridiculous."

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Two women clinging for life after man shoots them for 'trash talking,' Largo police say

The shooting took place at about 9 p.m. at Whispering Palms Apartments at 601 16th Ave. SE. Prince told officers that he did not know the identity of the women before he shot them. But police records show he had repeatedly complained about the women, who lived above him, both to property management and law enforcement.

Days and hours before Tuesday's shooting, Largo police said officers responded to two calls from Prince:

He called police Sunday morning at about 9:30 about an ongoing dispute with his upstairs neighbors, whom he said were running around the apartment and purposely making noise.

"(Prince) says he has mental health issues and that neighbors are intentionally antagonizing him," an officer wrote in a report.

He also told police that people in that apartment had previously threatened to beat him up. The report does not list Williams and Johnson by name, but neighbors said police came Sunday in response to the ongoing dispute between Prince and the women.

Monserrate Torres, 68, and Delgado said Prince had asked them to back him up when he complained to property managers about the two women. Torres said the dispute had been going on since at least April 21, Easter Sunday. But this past weekend was the first time she saw police get involved.

Then on Tuesday, hours before the shooting, Prince called police again. This time he told officers that he felt like he had been threatened.

The police report said the apartment complex's management was aware of the conflict and were attempting to move Williams, Johnson, and relatives who lived in the complex to other units.

The police report also said apartment officials had issues with Prince in the past. The officers also noted that he was not particularly friendly toward law enforcement.

The on-site manager declined to speak to a Tampa Bay Times reporter on Wednesday. Price, who also faces a charge of carrying a concealed firearm, was being held in the Pinellas County jail late Wednesday in lieu of $320,000 bail.

Arica Ronet, 39, said she's known Prince for three decades and was devastated to hear what happened. Their parents served in the military together, and she and Prince became friends who stayed in touch over the years.

She described Prince as a quiet, giving man who served with the Marines and has post traumatic stress disorder. Prince was homeless for a time, Ronet said, then he lived with her off and on. She said he cared for her 5-year-old son while she worked and acted as a father-figure to the child. When Whispering Palms opened in 2015, he was one of the first tenants to move in.

"I know what he's been suffering from, and he's been begging for help for the last two years consistently," Ronet said. "You just never know when someone's at their breaking point."

Ronet said Prince told her he was struggling with the noise, taunts and threats from his upstairs neighbors for at least a month. When it got to be too much, she said Prince told her, he'd go sit in his truck in the Florida heat to try to escape the noise and calm down.

Two neighbors told the Times that Prince had, at times, made them nervous and acted oddly.

"You just felt uncomfortable around him," Mary Cook, 63, said. "I couldn't put my finger on it. It's just that gut feeling, being a female."

Cook and others described Whispering Palms as a quiet, friendly apartment complex where neighbors often said hello and invited each other over for parties or a community BBQ.

"This is the first time anything like this has happened here," Delgado said. "It has kind of shocked everyone."

Delgado was walking his dog, Ava, Tuesday night when he heard gunshots. He and others ducked behind cars as they watched Prince chase Johnson into the street, then fire at a passing car. Police said that after Prince followed her, he also shot at a man in car who knew Johnson and Williams and was coming over with food.

Delgado, who is CPR certified and a member of the Guardian Angels volunteer organization, said he rushed over to provide emergency aid for Williams until emergency crews arrived.

"She's a very nice lady," Delgado said. "She always told me hi and good morning and have a blessed day ... all we can do now is pray."

Times senior news researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report. Contact Caitlin Johnston at cjohnston@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8779. Follow @cljohnst.

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