Wednesday, November 22, 2017
Public safety

Police: Two dead in Tampa Palms apartment shooting, man in custody

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TAMPA — The man waved a gun and told them they couldn't leave.

He ranted to those inside the Green Planet Smoke Shop in north Tampa on Friday evening that he had killed two people and wanted to end up on cable news.

When police arrived and took the man into custody for his erratic behavior, Devon Arthurs, 18, repeated his assertion of homicide. He led officers to his apartment, just a quarter mile from the smoke shop inside the Hamptons at Tampa Palms subdivision, where they found two dead males. Both appeared to have died from gunshots, police said. It was unclear if they lived at the home with Arthurs.

Arthurs, of 15350 Amberly Drive, faces two counts of first-degree murder, two counts of aggravated assault and three counts of armed kidnapping. He was held without bail Saturday in the Hillsborough County jail. Police released his name 24 hours after his arrest.

Police withheld the victims' names Saturday, pending notification of their families. Spokeswoman Janelle McGregor said the shooting was not random.

Fearful of explosives, the Tampa police bomb squad and Tampa Fire Rescue's hazardous materials team worked late into the night after the bodies were found searching Arthurs' apartment before detectives could begin their investigation of the home. Tampa police spokesman Steve Hegarty said Saturday he didn't know if bomb squad and hazmat personnel found anything suspicious.

The scene at the smoke shop unfolded around 5:30 p.m. Friday when people inside reported that a young man, later identified as Arthurs, entered the store, waved a gun and kept those inside from leaving. While there, Arthurs boasted that he "blasted their head," said Green Planet Smoke Shop manager Fadi Soufan, who wasn't present for the man's visit but recounted to reporters what his employee had seen.

The young man, who had some blood on him, did not point the gun at the employee and two customers inside, Soufan said, but ranted and raved and told them to get on the floor.

"He told them the world was corrupt, crazy stuff like that, that he just shot someone at Hampton over there," Soufan said. "He wanted publicity. Actually, he pointed at the camera. He said he wanted CNN to come."

Waving his gun around, the young man told the people in the store he was not going to kill them and that they were going to make it home, Soufan said. Arthurs was inside for about three minutes. At one point the man got angry and swiped some things off of a shelf, Soufan said. He also had someone in the store grab a Coke from the store cooler for him.

Soufan did not know how police were notified, but two officers eventually confronted the man, he said. The man surrendered, putting his gun down. He later directed officers to his apartment.

Soufan said no one in the shop recognized the man.

Justin Underwood, 44, was visiting two friends at their apartment in the Hamptons complex about 5 p.m. Friday when he began to notice a steady stream of police cruisers and Tampa Fire Rescue trucks heading toward a nearby unit. Hours later, officials had yet to tell residents what had occurred inside the apartment, blocked off by police tape and law enforcement vehicles.

"This is absolutely crazy," Underwood said. "We have no clue what's going on, whether anything dangerous happened. We don't know what the situation is."

Albert Boholst, a local dentist, drove into the Hamptons complex shortly after 6 p.m. and discovered law enforcement had blocked off access to his condo in building 36.

His wife and two school-aged boys were inside the apartment, said Boholst, 49, but when he approached the police tape barrier he was not allowed inside.

"I asked them what was going on and they first said, 'We can't tell you,' so I said, 'My wife and kids are in there and I can't get to them,' " he said. "And they said, 'We have some explosive concerns.' "

Officers helped Boholst's family evacuate. He said five or six buildings were roped off, each with four or five apartments.

While he was at work, Boholst said, his family thought they heard knocking on the door.

"Around that time it was thundering really loud and storming, so they weren't sure," he said. "And we've taught the boys not to open the door for anybody, so we didn't open the door."

Contact Anastasia Dawson at adawson@tampabay.com, Claire McNeill at cmcneill@tampabay.com and Josh Solomon jsolomon@tampabay.com.

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