One suspect arrested in store shootings
By ANGELA MOORE
© St. Petersburg Times, published January 12, 2001
TAMPA -- One of the two men who detectives say was involved in the fatal shooting of a convenience store owner New Year's Eve is now in jail, charged with first-degree murder.
But the other man they say is responsible for killing 40-year-old Sissay Dagnew Belete is still on the loose.
Thursday, deputies charged Jewel Atkins III, 20, of Tampa with first-degree murder and robbery in the shootings at the Rainbow Food Place on N 43rd Street almost two weeks ago. Besides Belete's death, a 27-year-old employee, Bizuneh Bizuneh, was shot in the hand during the robbery.
The robbery and shootings were caught on video by a surveillance camera. The face of one of the suspects is clearly visible as he leaves the store. But that man is not Atkins, said Col. David Gee of the Sheriff's Office.
Atkins was arrested Wednesday on the unrelated charge of violating his probation for a previous drug conviction. Gee said detectives were able to identify Atkins as a suspect in the shooting through "leads we received." He would not elaborate. Detectives asked Atkins about the shooting Thursday and later charged him with first-degree murder. "He admits to being in the store," Gee said. "But he does not admit to being the shooter."
The man Atkins said was the shooter is the one authorities have been looking for since Jan. 3, the one they say is clearly pictured on the surveillance tape: 25-year-old Robert Bellamy Miller.
"It's very important that Miller be arrested as soon as possible," Gee said. "With the violence that was involved in this crime and in others we're looking into that may be connected to him, it indicates a very dangerous person."
The store's surveillance tape does not show definitively which man shot Belete. However, both men were armed, and both leaned across the store's counter at Belete, who was sitting on the floor as instructed when he was shot.
Miller was seen as recently as Wednesday near the University of South Florida, Gee said. He is also known to frequent the Sulphur Springs area, Gee said. Miller is 6-foot-2, 175 pounds and probably armed. He is wanted on seven outstanding arrest warrants for violating his probation and failing to appear in court on other charges.
Tips on Miller's whereabouts have arrived at the rate of 10 to 15 a day, said Detective Sgt. Rob Bullara.
"We've been to several locations where we feel Miller has at one time or another stayed," Bullara said. "We feel like we've been right behind him."
Bullara said that Miller's arrest may not close this case. "We haven't ruled out the possibility that others are involved," he said.
Belete, an Ethiopian immigrant who owned two convenience stores in high-crime neighborhoods, left behind three children, the oldest of whom is 4 years old. His wife moved to Florida from Ethiopia five years ago and does not speak English.
Atkins has a significant arrest record, consisting mainly of charges for possession of cocaine. Until Thursday, he did not have a history of violent arrests.
- Angela Moore can be reached at 813-226-3373 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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