Gunman ends a life full of promise

The victim is one of three slain in St. Petersburg over the weekend.

Published May 29, 2007

ST. PETERSBURG - Kurt Anthony Bryant had it all: A successful luxury car service, an adoring wife, the community's respect for his work with children and charities.

On Saturday, he decided to take a high school buddy who had never been in a limo and four other friends for a night out in a company car. His friends picked up three girls, but Bryant's family said they stopped to let the girls out because they were causing trouble.

As Bryant, 35, helped one of the women out of the white stretch limo in the 1000 block of 13th Avenue S, someone walked up and shot him, police said. His friends took him in the limo to Bayfront Medical Center, where he died Sunday afternoon.

"I was robbed, " said his wife, Cynthia Bryant, 48, as she fought back tears Monday. "He wasn't ... doing anything but enjoying the business that he started."

Bryant's shooting was part of a bloody Memorial Day weekend that saw the city's homicide total for the year jump to 10.

James Lasseter, 33, a man with a long criminal history, was shot Sunday in a vacant lot at 20th Avenue and 45th Street S in what police say may have been a drug-related dispute. Also on Sunday, police arrested a 33-year-old homeless man named Jonathan Welcher, who is accused of fatally stabbing James Chancey, 30, several times in the chest after an argument.

Sgt. Mike Kovacsev, the head of the St. Petersburg Police Department's homicide unit, said none of the slayings are connected. He urged those with information to come forward.

"When we don't have somebody willing to step up and do the right thing, it makes our job more difficult, " Kovacsev said.

It was unclear why someone targeted Bryant.

"It appears there's no reason for it to happen, " Kovacsev said.

Bryant grew up in central Florida and was one badge shy of becoming an Eagle Scout before he lost interest, according to his mother. After graduating from Palatka High School, he joined the Army and spent four years stationed around the world.

Vivian Bryant, 59, his mother, recalls one conversation with her son after he joined the Army. He thanked her for a strict upbringing, saying: "When I was growing up I thought you were the meanest mom ever. Now I know why."

Bryant moved to St. Petersburg to be close to his mother and started working as a driver for various local car companies. For years, he saved money while ferrying the area's well-to-do around town.

His most rewarding trip may have been in September 2000, when he went to pick up a group of friends returning from a cruise.

One of the women, Cynthia, thought he was "the most handsome guy I had ever seen, " and gave him her phone number after her friends egged her on. He called, they began dating and then married in 2003.

Cynthia Bryant worked as a general manger at Albertsons, but also helped her husband start Bryant Luxury Transportation three years ago. They had a stretch limo and several other vehicles.

Business was good. They contracted with independent drivers, and were planning to expand this summer by buying more vehicles and possibly another luxury car company.

At the same time his business was growing, Bryant was doing charitable work with children. He was active with his church, Trinity Presbyterian, and various community groups. He recently attended a banquet for Everyone's Youth United, an organization he became involved in after driving its founder, Eric Green.

Cynthia Bryant said her husband was a gentleman who talked about someday opening a fun center so kids in the neighborhood would have somewhere to go.

Darryl Rouson, the former head of the St. Petersburg NAACP and a family friend, came to the Bryant home Monday to comfort the family and urge residents to help. He recalled how he had missed the Bryant wedding because he had started a campaign to buy back guns from the community to reduce violence.

"We want to make a plea for the community to come forward with information, " Rouson said. "There's a general sense of disrespect that's going on in our community between young folks and right and wrong."

Times researchers Caryn Baird and Carolyn Edds contributed to this report. Abhi Raghunathan can be reached at araghunathan@sptimes.com or 727 893-8472.

To help

Anyone with information may call St. Petersburg police at (727) 893-7164.