Crime

Sheriff: Ice cream vendor accused of Thanksgiving vengeance murder in Ruskin targeted wrong people

TAMPA - An ice cream vendor robbed and shot in January was accused early Thursday of murdering two people and wounding four others in an act of vengeance gone wrong.

Michael Keetley, 39, was looking for someone he called "Creeper'' he thought was behind the January shooting that left him barely able to use his hands, authorities said.

But none of the people he is accused of shooting Thanksgiving morning appear to be involved in that crime, said Hillsborough County Sheriff David Gee. The robbery is still an active investigation.

"We believe he went to the wrong residence and had bad intelligence on who this guy was," Gee said. "We don't know how he came to fixate on them."

Omar Bailon later identified himself to deputies as "Creep." He lives two houses down from where the shooting happened, Gee said, and is not linked to the robbery Keetley sought vengeance for.

Keetley described the men who robbed him in January as two black males, Gee said. The brothers who were shot dead were not.

The Sheriff's Office arrested Keetley early Thursday on two counts of first degree murder in the Thanksgiving Day shootings that killed two Ruskin brothers and injured four more men.

Thursday morning, the mother of the two men fatally shot, Juan Guitron, 28, and Sergio Guitron, 22, said she had been told of Keetley's arrest. "It's not going to bring my babies back," said Paz Quezada.

Richard Cantu, 31, Daniel Beltran, 24, Ramon Galan, 29, and Gonzalo Guevara, 28, were wounded in the shooting while they played cards on a friend's porch at a home on Ocean Mist Court in Ruskin.

Keetley's plot for vengeance started weeks earlier, according to a sheriff's affidavit. Witnesses told deputies he became obsessed with trying to find the man.

"He took the law into his own hands and well beyond that," Gee said.

One of the shooting victims who recently emerged from a coma identified Keetley as the shooter, the arrest affidavit states. The victim said he was "2,000 percent sure" it was Keetley.

Keetley told a woman he would pay $1,500 if someone brought him "Creeper" so he could take care of him, the affidavit states.

Keetley went to a nearby Publix parking lot to buy a gun that would be "more comfortable for his hands," a witness told deputies, according to the affidavit. He also told a witness "he now understood why vigilante violence occurs."

During a search of his house on Bonita Drive in Wimauma, deputies found Creeper's real name and address written in a notebook found on the kitchen counter. In the yard, an abandoned vehicle with multiple bullet holes appeared to have been used for target practice, the affidavit states.

On Tuesday, crime analysts determined the bullets found in the metal paneling of the car matched one found underneath the body of a victim at the shooting, deputies said. They were fired from the same .45-caliber weapon.

Deputies say that Keetley was wearing a black T-shirt with "Sheriff" printed on the front and "Security" on the back.

A witness later told deputies that Keetley told her he had police badges and uniforms and "wanted to kill the people responsible for robbing and shooting him," the affidavit states. Deputies also found two bullet proof vests and a pair of handcuffs inside his home.

He walked up to the porch where the men were playing cards and asked for Creeper, deputies said. The men knew who he was talking about but didn't say so, the report states.

Keetley asked them all for identification and ordered them to lay on the ground. Gee said the shooting was "very deliberate," with Keetley shooting each victim in line from right to left. A seventh person was shielded from the bullets when another victim stood up after being shot and fell over him.

Quezada said that she is grateful for the Sheriff's Office's work and thankful that Keetley won't hurt anyone else.

She said she knew Keetley because he sold ice cream around the house where the shooting happened, which is about 10 miles from his home.

Sometimes she would tell her son, Juan, to bring home ice cream.

They all thought Keetley was a good guy who sometimes gave away free ice cream.

"The truth is I would just like to have him in front of me," Quezada said. "I'd like to be alone with him." She said, however, she doesn't know what she would say or do.

Thomas Keetley, Michael Keetley's father, said he could not talk about his son's arrest because his son's attorney advised him not to speak.

"There's a lot I'd like to say but I can't," he said.

After the January shooting, Thomas Keetley spoke to the St. Petersburg Times. [http:///searchforwardservlet.do?articleid=1067909]

He said his son grew up in the Ruskin-Sun City Center area. He worked on small planes until Delta Air Lines hired him to work on jets. He spent nine years in Atlanta before Delta laid him off about four years ago. He hoped to get back into the industry, his father said, but moved back home, fixed odds and ends and decided to sell ice cream about a year ago.

Many of his customers were the children of Wimauma migrant farm workers, so Keetley sold most of his wares for $1 or less, never making much.

The shooting happened about 6:30 p.m. Jan. 23 after he gassed up his ice cream van for the next day and headed home to get ready for a date. On the way home four people flagged him down in the 4000 block of Old U.S. 41.

He thought they were customers, but as the van pulled over, the group ran up and demanded cash, authorities said. Two men and two women boarded the van and told Keetley to turn around.

"Why should I turn around," he said, according to his father.

The next moment someone shot him in the leg, dropping him to the floor. "And they pumped the rest in him," Thomas Keetley said.

A bullet went into his chest and into his left arm and another went through his right knuckles and wrist. The robbers ran off, and Michael Keetley picked himself up and drove to a nearby house using his mangled right hand to steer. His left arm wouldn't move.

His son was living with him under house care after the January robbery and shooting.

Michael Keetley has been arrested one other time in Florida - just three days after the shooting, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

On Nov. 28, Keetley was arrested on charges of violating a domestic violence injunction. Deputies said he had been making harassing and obscene phone calls to a neighbor.

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