Upscale Manatee community involved in drive-by investigation

rdymond@bradenton.comAugust 6, 2013 

EAST MANATEE -- The sight of a deputy training a high-powered rifle at a house in upscale River Pointe off State Road 64 in East Manatee is far from normal.

But it happened Monday when River Pointe became involved in the investigation of a drive-by shooting that occurred about a mile west.

The incident began at 3:48 p.m. when 16 large-caliber rounds were fired at a house in the 600 block of 24th Street East, just two blocks from the recent homicide at the 13th Avenue Dream Center.

There were no injuries, only damaged vehicles, said Deputy Chief Warren Merriman of the Bradenton Police Department.

"We do not believe the shooting was random," Merriman said.

Witnesses told police at least four men holding long rifles fired on the house from the bed of a green pickup truck.

With the assistance of the Manatee County Sheriff's Office, the green truck was found later parked in a driveway of a River Pointe home in the 3900 block of Third Avenue East, according to a BPD report.

Despite an all-out search, involving several SWAT team members and a helicopter, the suspects were not located in

the River Pointe house or the surrounding neighborhood and no arrests were made, said Sgt. Evelio Perez of the sheriff's office.

Witnesses did see at least three people being handcuffed and led to police vehicles, only to be let go an hour or so later.

"The people who were detained were all in the house," Perez said. "Everyone was cleared. No one was arrested."

After everyone was out of the house, including the owner, a SWAT team went in to make sure no one was hiding inside, Perez said.

The owner of the house was also questioned, Perez said.

"The owner of the house told us she does not know why the green truck was parked in her driveway," Perez said. "Of course, we are continuing to investigate."

Resident Jaqui McNeil said she was shocked to see people in handcuffs on the quiet River Pointe street.

"We moved here to get away from this," said McNeil, who moved to River Pointe five years ago. "It seems to me that no matter how much we pay on our mortgages we all live in the ghetto now."

Authorities also were not able to get much help from the owner of the house fired upon earlier.

"The owner did not want to cooperate," Merriman said.

Nearly one a year ago, Ceola Lazier III, 31, was found shot to death in a vehicle in the 600 block of 24th Street East, according to Herald archives.

"It is like an episode of 'Miami Vice,'" said Alain Fontagneres of Paris, who is vacationing in River Pointe with his three children, Thomas, 17, Margaux, 16 and Juliette, 13.

Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-748-0411, ext. 6686.

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