Crime

2 more suspects arrested in smoke shop murder case, cops say

Two more suspects have been charged with second-degree murder in the death of Mohammed Hamed, the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office announced Friday.

Deputies say James Brewer, 19, and Michael Hepner, 21, were accomplices in the robbery and shooting of Hamed, a 23-year-old who ran the Green Galaxy Smoke and Vape Shop with his brother. The suspected shooter, 20-year-old Amado Zeppi, was arrested Thursday.

The three of them, along with a fourth suspect who remains at large and has not been identified, planned the robbery beforehand, according to sheriff’s office spokesman Randy Warren.

Detectives say that Brewer entered the store just before 11 p.m. on Thursday to distract Hamed, while Zeppi and the unidentified other male, both wearing something to cover their faces, entered the shop. Zeppi was armed with an SKS rifle with a bayonet attached.

Brewer ran back out to the car where Hepner was waiting, which was captured on the store’s video surveillance system.

Meanwhile, Zeppi and the fourth suspect forced Hamed into the back room of his shop and made him open a small safe that was in the bathroom. They filled a bag with the items they stole and the fourth suspect left out the back door.

But Zeppi continued to point the rifle at Hamed, which was also captured on video surveillance, which detectives now have. Then without any provocation, Zeppi hit Hamed with the bayonet and the rifle accidentally discharged, shooting the store owner in the head, according to the sheriff’s office.

Hepner drove the getaway car and was being treated as a witness as of Thursday. But as the investigation developed, detectives learned more about what he knew and his role in the robbery.

“It was all part of a plan that they were all in on,” Warren said.

According to the sheriff’s office, the identity of the additional suspect who entered the shop with Zeppi remained unknown as of Friday.

Zeppi was arrested on Thursday and was being held without bond.

Anyone with information about the case can call the sheriff’s office at 941-747-3011 or Crime Stoppers at 866-634-8477 (TIPS).

Ryan Callihan is the Bradenton Herald’s County Reporter, covering local government and politics. On the weekends, he also covers breaking news. Ryan is a graduate of USF St. Petersburg.
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Jessica De Leon has been covering crime, courts and law enforcement for the Bradenton Herald since 2013. She has won numerous awards for her coverage including the Florida Press Club’s Lucy Morgan Award for In-Depth Reporting in 2016 for her coverage into the death of 11-year-old Janiya Thomas.
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