tampabay.com

Attorney says man fired shots in self-defense

By COLLEEN JENKINS
Published August 15, 2006


TAMPA - Sebastian Luengas and Michael Roberts weren't gang members, their mothers have said. A buddy agreed in court Monday.

But when the two Leto High School dropouts and fellow "TNC Boys" drove to the home of some Blood members in Town 'N Country on Feb. 20, they expected a fist fight, the buddy said. They got more than that: Luengas, 16, and Roberts, 20, ended up dead.

"Ain't going to be no head up!" Rodrick Kelly, 18, said a Blood yelled. "Head up" is street lingo for a fist fight or brawl. "Then shots fired - boom, boom - twice."

Kelly recalled that scene on the witness stand Monday as the trial against one of the accused shooters got under way. Brian Joseph Lima, 18, is charged with two counts of second-degree murder and seven counts of aggravated assault involving the discharge of a gun.

Investigators say Lima sprayed buckshot on a group of a dozen teenagers. His defense attorney said Lima and Freddie Vasquez Jr., 19, fired "warning shots" during the face-off in self-defense.

The case highlighted the emerging gang problem in Hillsborough County and in part prompted the Sheriff's Office to apply for a $2.5-million grant aimed at gang prevention. Tampa was one of six areas in the country to receive the grant.

Tensions escalated between the TNC Boys and some Bloods in the weeks leading to the fatal shooting, prosecutor Barbara Coleman said during her opening statement.

At a Webb Middle School carnival Feb. 18, Vasquez fought with TNC Boys, she said.

The confrontation picked back up the night of Feb. 20. Coleman said Vasquez and other Bloods drove to Town 'N Country and taunted teens there.

"Bring it over to our neighborhood," the men in the car said.

Two carloads of TNC Boys, including one girl, headed to Vasquez's home at 7902 Woodgrove Circle shortly after. The two groups began throwing rocks and pieces of brick at each other, Kelly said.

Lima fired at least three shots from a 12-gauge shotgun, hitting Luengas in the back and Roberts twice, Coleman said.

Assistant Public Defender Kenneth Littman said Roberts shot at the Bloods' car during their first encounter that night, so Lima fired shots into the air this go-round to ward off danger.

"He absolutely believed he was being shot at," Littman said.

Authorities said Vasquez also fired into the crowd; he faces the same charges as Lima.

Colleen Jenkins can be reached at 813 226-3337 or cjenkins@sptimes.com.