Thursday shooting is city's first homicide of new year

Published January 6, 2007

NEW PORT RICHEY - James Andre Paulin lived fast and loud, with plenty of fireworks, and he was still running when a bullet cut him down.

He fell outside a mint-green modular home on Celeste Lane just before midnight Thursday. Blood poured into the driveway.

Moments later at a nearby hospital, the proud New Yorker who called himself Jap Valentine became the city's first slaying victim in nearly two years.

The official story was sparse and the witnesses were terrified, so it was hard to know what led to Paulin's death. Police released neither suspect description nor possible motive. But neighbors said scary young men roamed the street by night, some of them wearing all black.

Paulin was 30 years old. Jap Valentine was his hip-hop nickname. He advertised himself as a one-man band from Queens, in the style of rap forebears like Nas and Mobb Deep, and his 19-track album, Grimey Valentine, sold for $3 a copy.

The main background on his MySpace page depicted a red paisley do-rag next to a sheaf of $20 and $100 bills. He wrote in an intriguing urban code, most of it too profane to reprint here, and his friends wrote back.

"Turn it up on dem BLOOD and Skyline wit ya Skooby!" a user called TRAY 8 TRIG commanded. "DANGER!!! EEEEAAAASSSSTTT!!"

Paulin's last confirmed address was 7370 Royal Palm Drive in New Port Richey, a sand-colored ranch house where the bass used to thump so thunderously that one neighbor said it sent her to the hospital with heart palpitations.

Other neighbors reported constant comings and goings from the house, including derelicts who crawled in the windows. In a criminal complaint against him last August, an ex-girlfriend said Paulin sold drugs.

She also said he put a gun to her head and beat her with a hammer, according to an incident report from the New Port Richey Police Department. She had a red mark on her back that matched a hammer's imprint.

But a prosecutor dropped the case in November, citing a lack of victim or witness cooperation.

Paulin was arrested on a charge of trespassing that month, on a night when neighbors reported hearing a burst of gunfire from the vicinity of his house. No one lives there now, at least not officially, and on Friday a notice on the front door deemed it unsafe for human occupancy.

Back on Celeste Lane in the late afternoon, the investigators had come and gone. No one answered the door at the mint-green house. But under a weathered picnic table in the driveway, a pool of evidence remained.

The authorities had left Paulin's blood where it spilled. Police Capt. Darryl Garman said the property owner would probably have to clean it up. Sixteen hours after the shooting it was still there, sprawling on the concrete, gleaming in the sun.

Times researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report. Thomas Lake can be reached at tlake@sptimes.com or 1-800-333-7505, ext. 6245.