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Gunshots near school mobilize parents

A group of parents and neighbors of Robinson High School meets Monday to improve safety in their community and to put pressure on officials.

© St. Petersburg Times
published February 28, 2003

INTERBAY -- Diana Przeslawski's daughter came home from afterschool softball practice at Robinson High School last week with two bits of bad news.

She had sprained her pinky finger during practice, and she had witnessed a shooting.

Sometime around 4:30 p.m. on Feb. 19, a car rolled up to the Rembrandt apartments across the street from Robinson. Someone walked up to the car, and several shots were discharged. Those in and outside the car began to laugh, witnesses said.

The softball players, practicing nearby, dropped to the ground on the coach's orders and began crawling on their stomachs to the dugout for protection.

No one was injured, and officials don't think the shots were aimed at anyone.

Still, it wasn't the kind of news a mother wanted to hear, especially since Przeslawski said it was the second time in recent weeks that a shooting had happened near the southeast corner of Robinson where her daughter's softball team practices.

Several weeks ago, someone apparently shot 14 bullet holes in a portable near the softball field.

After last week's shooting, "I realized I had to act," Przeslawski said. "I had to get something changed."

Przeslawski has organized Community and Parents of Robinson High School, a group of concerned parents and neighbors of Robinson who want to improve the safety of their community.

The group will meet Monday night at 7 in the Robinson High auditorium at 6311 S Lois Ave. to discuss ways to increase awareness about the area and how to get city officials to pay attention to Rembrandt.

Gene Wells, president of the Robinson booster club and vice chairman of Community and Parents of Robinson High School, said Rembrandt was scheduled for renovation but taken off the Tampa Housing Authority's schedule due to budget cuts.

Jerome Ryans, executive director of the Tampa Housing Authority, said that's not entirely true.

"It has never been off the list," he said.

"We just don't have the dollars to move as fast as people would like."

With a 30 percent budget cut -- nearly $4-million -- the authority has had to reshuffle projects.

Neither Robinson parents and school administrators nor Rembrandt residents say the problems are being caused by anyone who lives at the complex.

On a recent night this week, as a baseball game began at Robinson, Crystal Brown, 23, stood on her second-floor balcony at Rembrandt and kept a close eye on two of her children, Jeremiah, 3, and Isaiah, 1.

"I've been out here a year, and I didn't know the difference between a shotgun and a firecracker," she said. "Now, I do."

Brown said she has seen improvement, but much of the problem remains.

Frequent visitors show disrespect to Rembrandt residents.

"They'll tell us, 'You can't tell me to get off your porch,"' said Jeveta Williams, 21, who lives at Rembrandt.

Williams said most of the "action" happens around Goya Court, near a section of apartments where she lives. It's near the southeast corner of Robinson, close to the softball field.

Brown said the last notice of any renovation plans for Rembrandt she received said all residents are to be out of the complex by 2004. She wasn't sure of any other details.

Since last week's shooting, Tampa police and Hillsborough school officials have increased security at the school and its after-hours activities. More officers have patrolled the area this week, and additional officers have attended team practices.

"This was an idiotic thing that someone did, a very dangerous thing, but it wasn't a violent crime," said Kevin McCarthy, principal at Robinson. "It's still unacceptable next door to my softball field."

Parents and athletes at Robinson have met with counselors who are available if anyone wants to talk about the incident.

Mark Hart, spokesman for the Hillsborough school district, said Carol Kurdell, School Board chairwoman, met Tuesday with Tampa Housing Authority officials. He said Kurdell has also spoken with Tampa police chief Bennie Holder and contacted Mayor Dick Greco's office.

"We're not going to let our students be terrorized," Hart said.

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