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Driver dies in rolling gunfight

He crashes near USF. Two men in the other vehicle, a lime green Lexus, escape.

Published August 6, 2006

TAMPA - Shaquana Thomas was getting ready to visit family members Saturday afternoon when a rolling gunfight erupted on N 21st Street outside her apartment.

"It was like pow, pow, pow, pow, pow!" said Thomas, 19, who said she heard about 20 shots. "My mother just yelled for everybody to duck."

Three men in two cars - a 1995 red Chevrolet Jimmy and a lime green Lexus - fired at each other as they sped north side by side on N 21st Street, north of Fletcher Avenue about 1 p.m., officials said.

At least four slugs punched through the passenger door of the Jimmy, and at least one of them hit the driver, 32-year-old Bobby Fields of Tampa, in the head, according to the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office. Fields lost control of the SUV and crashed into three cars parked in front of the Julie Court apartment complex, near the University of South Florida, authorities said. He died at University Community Hospital.

Thomas said even after the Jimmy crashed, she saw shots coming from the Lexus, which sped off down 21st Street and out of sight.

Deputies were searching for a mid 1990s model lime green Lexus sedan with silver chrome wheels, dark tinted windows and possible window damage. Investigators said they believed the Lexus was driven by a stocky black man who was about 5 feet, 8 inches tall and weighed 210 pounds. A passenger in the Lexus was described as a 6-foot-3, 200-pound black man with dreadlocks.

Efforts to reach Fields' family late Saturday were unsuccessful.

Investigators said they weren't sure yet what led to the shooting, but neighbors had their own ideas.

"It's just drugs and crime in this neighborhood, in this area, period," said Katrina Robinson, 25, who was visiting her family at Julie Court. She took cell phone pictures of her totaled gold 2004 Chrysler Pacifica. Two Chevrolet Cavaliers also were heavily damages in the crash.

As neighbors milled about the cement-block apartment complex or sat on the hoods of cars watching investigators dust for fingerprints, Robinson's cousin, Shaquana Thomas, spoke of Dondi Maurice King, 29, a Seffner man who was found shot to death in his car at the Beechwood Apartments on 21st Street in mid July. Thomas said King was her cousin, and she believes the crimes are related.

Sheriff's Detective Lisa Haber-Bosley said investigators are aware of the July incident, but it's too early to tell if the two crimes are related.

The university area has long been known for blighted conditions and crime. Sheriff's Office statistics show more incidents of forced sex, robbery, assault, burglary, vehicle thefts and drugs in the area surrounding 21st Street than in the rest of unincorporated Hillsborough County.

The area is in the midst of redevelopment, and has some new facilities like the University Area Community Center, Muller Elementary, the Bowers-Whitley Career Center and a health and social services center

Still, Thomas said she plans to move out of the neighborhood with her 5-month-old daughter before September.

"This is not a good place," she said.

[Last modified August 6, 2006, 07:32:51]

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