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    Street explodes in gunfire; man dies

    By BRYAN GILMER, Times Staff Writer
    © St. Petersburg Times
    published April 9, 2002

    Jacobie Spradley, 24: target or bystander?
    ST. PETERSBURG -- Hearing loud pops like a string of firecrackers, Latonya Scott peeked out the window to see a short man wearing black shorts and no shirt, spraying bullets down her street with a military-style assault rifle.

    "I thought about ducking, and then I thought about my children," she said. Her 11-year-old son, Brian Richardson, was outside tossing a football with friends.

    "They almost shot me," Brian said. "I heard it and just started running."

    At least 58 shell casings lay on the ground at 12th Street and Melrose Avenue S after the 6 p.m. shooting. One bullet hit 24-year-old Jacobie Spradley in the chest as he stood in a group about 100 yards from the shooter.

    His friends loaded him into a car and drove to Bayfront Medical Center, but he was dead when they arrived.

    [Times photo: James Borchuck]
    Friends and family comfort Sharon Long, center in print dress, outside Bayfront Medical Center in St. Petersburg. Long's boyfriend, Jacobie Spradley, died in a drive-by shooting on Monday.
    Police spokesman Rick Stelljes said some shots came from handguns and some from a "high-caliber" rifle.

    Sgt. Michael Puetz said police were working to identify two to four suspects.

    "We don't have any clear leads on the motive right now," Puetz said. "We're trying to get a sense of whether there had been some sort of dispute or if he may just have been a bystander."

    Spradley was released from state prison just more than one year ago after serving a year for possession of cocaine and sale, manufacture or delivery of cocaine, state records show. He had been in and out of prison since he was 15 for auto theft, burglary and grand theft.

    His mother, Natalie Rena Smith, 39, called Spradley a "good person," and said he "never bothered anybody." She said he was living with her and left their home on 17th Avenue S about an hour before he was shot, after ironing his clothes, taking a bath and listening to music.

    Some people in the 900 through 1100 blocks of Melrose Avenue S insisted they saw nothing. Many were upset about what happened.

    Two bullets hit Patricia Maxwell's Toyota Corolla. She was about to leave the house with her three sons -- 13, 11, and 4 -- and her 8-year-old daughter to drive it to her sister's house when she heard the shots.

    "The Lord was with us," she said. "The Lord just held us back. There are kids out here, all up and down this street all the time playing football and cheerleading. They could have shot somebody's kid!"

    She huddled with her kids and with Brian Richardson in her house, asking each of the frightened children if they were certain they had not been hit.

    Miya Badidi said she has asked the police many times to stop the broad-daylight crack cocaine dealing that happens on her avenue.

    "I'm ready to move," she said. "The only time the police are present is when something happens, and I have called them myself. What kills me is everybody sees what happens out here. They're just out here in the middle of the day, plain as day, selling crack."

    Former mayoral candidate Maria Scruggs-Weston lives across from Badidi at 980 Melrose Ave. Scruggs-Weston had appeared before the City Council on Thursday to criticize a written set of objectives for Melrose and other depressed neighborhoods south of downtown.

    She said there has been too much planning, but not enough action, on how to help the area Mayor Rick Baker's administration calls "Midtown."

    "You see now why I don't take kindly to all this B.S. about plans that don't say anything," she declared Monday night after checking to see whether any of the bullets pierced her house. "They've got to take the politics out of being a police officer. Everybody is afraid to make a move."

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