BRADENTON, Fla - We recently brought you the news of an agreement between several law enforcement agencies in Manatee County that are pooling resources for a new Homicide Task Force. Wednesday, detectives in that newly formed unit got their first case.
Neighbors that live near the Manatee Avenue East gas station where the murder happened Wednesday morning say they're not surprised it happened, because the violence in the area is a constant problem. “Everybody that's responsible or cares is tired of the killings, the shootings,” said one resident who lives nearby.
But Manatee County Sheriff Brad Steube says this time, detectives are pretty sure what the shooting was over: a drug deal gone bad. According to a sheriff's office report, shortly before 2am, three men went to the Marathon gas station, and according to witnesses, the men were met by three others, who fired several shots. One victim died, another is in critical condition.
And that's where the new Manatee Homicide Investigation Unit steps in. “The first 48-72 hours of any homicide is extremely important and we have a person from each one of the cities -- Longboat Key, Bradenton Beach, Holmes Beach, the City of Palmetto, and Bradenton. And in addition to that, we house the unit and the supervision of the unit is from the sheriff's office,” says Sheriff Steube.
With 19 homicide cases and 21 victims last year within Manatee County limits alone, Sheriff Steube says it only made sense to form a collective unit to investigate these cases. “I'll use drugs and gangs. They don't stop within the city limits and county limits, so we're fighting the same gangs, we're fighting the same drug dealers; and when there's shootings between, or among, those two groups, it's obvious that we sit down and talk about it. But it would be even better if we had a homicide unit that was co-mingled from all the other departments, and that's what we decided to do.”
But with the first homicide taking place just 26 hours into in the new year, some say they hope the task force is enough to make sure 2013 isn't as deadly as 2012. “With all the young people out there shooting and getting killed, a lot of the families know each other. Two grandmothers, maybe their grandchildren, their grand-boys or something. You bring everyone together, all the law enforcement, i think it will make a big difference,” says one neighbor.
If you have any information in this case, you're asked to call Crime Stoppers at 866-634-TIPS.