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Drug shootings stoke appeals for solutions

By JAMIE MALERNEE

© St. Petersburg Times, published February 23, 2001


BROOKSVILLE -- If a sense of urgency filled the voices of those who attended a community meeting about crime and drugs in south Brooksville, there was a reason.

In less than two months, there have been three shootings in the area, one of which ended fatally for 34-year-old Linda Clevinger, whose death marked the fourth straight drug-related killing in the city.

Two of the most recent shootings occurred within hours of each other between late Sunday night and early Monday morning. And the basic circumstances of the third shooting were eerily similar to the first: Person goes to buy drugs, argument breaks out between the dealer and the buyer, dealer shoots buyer.

This time, the person shot was Spring Hill resident Jonathan Ortiz, 33, of 4474 Plumosa St., who went to Smith and Union streets to buy drugs, police say. He was the passenger of a car driven by Spring Hill resident Tony Cafaro, 55, of 3173 Harrow Road, who tried to drive away when he saw the dealer pull out a gun. He was too late, and Ortiz, sitting in the passenger seat, was shot in the back of the head. He was flown to Tampa General Hospital, where he remained in intensive care until Thursday, when he was released.

Brooksville police declined to say whether they have any suspects in the early Monday morning shooting. In the killing of Clevinger, who authorities say was shot in the head Jan. 6 while sitting in a truck as she tried to buy drugs on Jefferson Street, officials have made an arrest. Although her shooter is still at large, the man who drove her to the United 500 gas station to buy crack has been charged with third-degree murder.

In the second shooting, Hernando County sheriff's officials have charged Stephen Hasberry, 24, of 404 E Martin Luther King Blvd. with shooting another man in the shoulder. Hasberry claims he shot Leonard Sampson, a Brooksville resident awaiting trial on bank robbery charges, in self-defense when he thought Sampson was going to shoot him first. Sampson told authorities he confronted Hasberry about taunting his girlfriend Sunday and, unprovoked, Hasberry shot him.

At Wednesday's meeting, residents expressed fear at the growing violence. Law enforcement officers promised to do more but said they need more help from the community.

"We know what the problem is in Brooksville. The question is, what are we going to do about it?" said Deputy Bill Pope, who is part of the Sheriff's Office community policing unit assigned to the south Brooksville area. "We are begging and pleading with you to help us."

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