TAMPA — An aspiring music producer and sound engineer, Cesar Camacho prides himself on detecting subtle noises and soft conversations several feet away.
“I can hear stuff that most people can’t hear,” he said.
But what he heard the night of Sept. 23 in the apartment directly above him required no auditory refinement: angry, high-pitched screams imploring — even daring — another human being to shoot. For someone whose encounter with neighborhood gun violence remained raw, those sounds were all Camacho needed to call 911.
“I’m like, ‘Holy crap, is this happening again?’” he said.
This is the other side of the most sensational story to emanate from the NHL postseason.
Since the Tampa Bay Times first reported it, Devon Garnett, 26, has become the bay area’s celebrity du jour. Days after he and his buddies got a visit from police for screaming at the TV during Game 3 of the Stanley Cup finals, Garnett estimates he has done interviews with a dozen media outlets. The New York Post picked up the story. So did CBSSports.com.
The Lightning even invited him and some guests to the team’s official Game 4 watch party at Amalie Arena.
All fine and good with Camacho, who is just happy it turned out to be a false alarm.
Six months earlier, the violence and chaos and crime-scene tape were chillingly authentic.
At that time, Camacho, 23, resided in the Morgan Creek apartment complex off Bruce B. Downs Boulevard in New Tampa. A Dominican Republic native, he said he “grew up around domestic violence” in some hardscrabble segments of New York City. On this day, he had returned from purchasing a car in Orlando with his little brother when he saw a swarm of police vehicles and news vans a couple of buildings away.
An adult male residing in one of the apartments had shot and killed a male and female roommate, then himself, according to a police news release.
That memory still acute, Camacho took no chances upon hearing the screams above him the night of Sept. 23 at the Radius Palms complex near USF. He and his girlfriend were watching a Miami Heat-Boston Celtics NBA playoff game with the volume “loud as hell” and Latin rap music blaring in the background.
“So as the night goes on, throughout the game, I start hearing running upstairs,” recalled Camacho, who tends bar at a local RV resort. “I know our apartment community ... is full of college students, because it’s right next to USF. So I heard screaming and jumping, and it seemed like people were tackling or wrestling.”
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Camacho said the distinct screams followed: Go ahead and (expletive) shoot! I freaking dare you to shoot!
“So when I’m hearing this guy saying, ‘I dare you to (expletive) shoot,’” Camacho recalled, “I’m like ... ‘Am I really gonna get a shootout in my apartment building when I just moved from a place that had a shooting?’”
Camacho credits Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office deputies for arriving on the scene less than five minutes after his call. He overheard Garnett and his friends telling police they were screaming at a hockey game and initially didn’t believe their story until reading about it in the Tampa Bay Times.
A couple of days later, Camacho delivered a 12-pack of Stella Artois with a handwritten note to his upstairs neighbors, basically indicating no hard feelings. Garnett later announced on social media he’s now selling merchandise (namely T-shirts) to help raise money for domestic violence victims.
A cause that resonates.
Loud and clear.
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