Bradenton business owner Mohammed Hamed’s killer struck him with a bayonet affixed to a rifle, and then shot him in the head during a robbery at his smoke shop, according to the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office.
The suspect, Amado Zeppi, 20, was arrested Thursday and charged with second-degree murder. Detectives continue to search for two other suspects in the case.
During a first appearance hearing Thursday afternoon, Circuit Judge Gilbert Smith Jr. ordered Zeppi be held without bond and also revoked his bonds in two unrelated criminal cases against him. Zeppi refused to appear for the hearing.
Deputies were called to the Green Galaxy Smoke Shop, 3212 First St. in Bradenton, at about 11 p.m. Tuesday and found Hamed’s body after they were alerted by his brother, who was in Tampa and witnessed via the store’s video surveillance system two men holding his brother to the ground at gunpoint.
Zeppi, James Brewer, 19, and another unknown male had planned the robbery, according to an arrest warrant affidavit. The driver who took the three to the Green Galaxy told detectives he took them to the shop to buy marijuana, according to an arrest warrant affidavit.
Brewer was captured on video surveillance getting out of the car and going inside to distract Hamed, according to the affidavit. A couple minutes later, Zeppi, who was armed with a rifle, and the unidentified suspect got out of the car with their faces covered and went into the store. Brewer then ran out of the shop and got back into the waiting car, the affidavit states.
Zeppi and the unknown burglar ordered Hamed to the back room of the store and forced him to open a small safe that was in the bathroom. They packed a bag full of stolen items and then the unidentified suspect left through the store’s back door.
Detectives say that Zeppi continued to point the rifle at Hamed and then “completely unprovoked” swung the rifle at the victim, hitting him with bayonet. That caused the rifle to fire and Hamed was shot in the head, killing him, the affidavit states.
Another witness told detectives that the three had planned the robbery at his home and later returned with what they had stolen from the shop. They left the SKS rifle with a bayonet used in the robbery at his home. The rifle has been turned over to the sheriff’s office.
Detectives say they are examining Zeppi’s social media for possible clues in the case.
Zeppi on Wednesday shared on Facebook a link to a Bradenton Herald story about another shooting that occurred in East Bradenton on Wednesday morning, writing: “Ima start calling it murderville county smh.”
Detectives had not seen the Facebook post before the Bradenton Herald posted an early version of this story. They said they could not rule out that Hamed’s death and the Wednesday morning shooting were related.
Outside the Green Galaxy Smoke Shop on Thursday, while a funeral service was underway in Tampa for the victim, a memorial was growing with cards, flowers, candles and a poster filled with condolences. Some messages were short and simple, expressing love or that the victim rest in peace.
Other messages offered more of a glimpse into the giving person Hamed was known to be, saying “Thank you for feeding me and giving me money when it was cold out.”
The store remained closed Thursday, but the lights inside the store, including the open signs, remained as they have been since Hamed was killed.
Before his arrest, Zeppi had been out on bond since April after being arrested on charges that he violated his probation when he was arrested on charges of burglary, grand theft, battery on a law enforcement officer, possession burglary tools, criminal mischief and possession of a controlled substance. The charges stem from two separate 2017 felony cases.
At the time of his October 2017 arrest, Zeppi tried to justify burglarizing a Holmes Beach home, telling police that the victim “probably owns three houses.”
In April 2018, Zeppi pled no contest to the charges and was sentenced to five years of drug offender probation, including the condition he successfully complete a residential treatment program.
According to court records, however, Zeppi violated his probation in January when he was found in possession of synthetic cannabinoids and again later that month when he was kicked out of the Bridges of America residential treatment program after he was found to be possessing drugs.
Zeppi was arrested on March 17 for the violation and released on April 24 with a condition that he be transferred and live in the Real Recovery Sober Living for Men recovery program in Bradenton. According to a letter from the Real Recovery program to the court, Zeppi made a commitment to stay six months.
But court records reveal that in May, Zeppi again was accused of violating his probation by moving out of the residential program without notifying his probation officer or completing the program. Real Recovery agreed to allow Zeppi to continue the program if he completed a 30-day inpatient treatment program before returning, according to a motion filed by his defense attorney Jon Weiffenbach.
Circuit Judge Lon Arend granted the request and ordered Zeppi to in-patient treatment at Behavorial Health in Lake Worth. Zeppi completed the in-patient program last month and was ordered back to the Real Recovery residential program where he was supposed to be currently living.