Shooting in Florida ends with 3 dead, 2 wounded


With one of his victims bleeding in the street and another struggling to drag herself out the front door, a suicidal gunman traded fire with police from the lobby of a Hollywood apartment building early Friday until a final shot put an end to a deadly rampage.

For an hour and a half Stuart Williams, 34, held Hollywood police at bay as tenants huddled in their apartments and nearby residents and business owners watched a raging battle.

When the crackle of gunfire finally went silent, three people were dead, including Williams, who police said had left a suicide note in his fourth-floor apartment before stepping into the lobby and randomly firing his .38-caliber revolver.

Found dead in the lobby was Ben Neivert, 81, who had lived in the apartment building for 24 years, and Dawn Garcia, 20, who had only moved in four months ago.

Two other residents, Amanda Scheiber, 21, the new building manager, and Jelena Marjanovic, 25, who stumbled into the street with a head wound, were in critical but stable condition at Memorial Regional Hospital, police said.

Scheiber, Neivert and Garcia were all pulled from the building in a harrowing rescue attempt by the first officers and detectives on the scene who rushed as a team into the path of Williams’ bullets to pull the victims out.

Although police said Williams was under psychiatric care, “we don’t know what set him off,” said Hollywood Police Detective Carlos Negron. “That’s what we’re trying to find out.”

When officers arrived to answer a 10:30 a.m. call of shots fired at the Town House Apartments at 1776 Polk St. just north of Young Circle, they found Marjanovic already outside. She was bleeding from a gunshot wound to the head.

Officers rushed her to safety, but Scheiber, who is 12 weeks pregnant, was pinned down inside.

“Police officers saw the pregnant female trying to crawl out of the building but she couldn’t open the door. It was too heavy,” said Negron.

It was when officers tried to rescue Scheiber that Williams opened fire on them, Negron said.

Inside, the killing had already begun.

On his way to buy groceries for breakfast, building tenant Rocky McDonald, 37, stepped off the elevator into a hail of bullets. Dropping to the ground, he saw a woman, who police believe was Garcia, lying on the floor with blood spots on her chest. During a pause in the shooting, McDonald started to stand up to check on the woman.

That’s when the gunman appeared, pointed a revolver at McDonald, and told him to back away.

“I wasn’t about to argue,” said McDonald who went back to his apartment and called police. He was not injured. McDonald said he has lived in the building about seven months.

“Stunned isn’t the word for it,” said McDonald. “I walked out of the elevator and could see a body with blood on her chest.”

“He could have killed me. Anybody that walked out of that elevator was going to get shot.”

Outside, the first officers had called for a SWAT team to back them up but quickly decided they couldn’t wait to help Scheiber. Forming a wedge, the group of four to six men rushed into the lobby as Williams continued to fire at them, surrounded Scheiber and dragged her to safety, Negron said.

With Scheiber in the clear, the officers then determined they needed to go back in for the victims they had seen on the floor inside.

Again forming themselves into a wedge they rushed in twice more to get Neivert and Garcia, placing them both on the trunks of waiting patrol cars and wheeling them to nearby ambulances.

Outside, witnesses were stunned by the spectacle.

“They just started firing back and forth across the street. It was terrible,” said Tony Nunoz, 32, who was painting his home nearby when shots rang out. “I heard one of them empty about 36 shots into there — badda-rap-bap-bap! I ran for cover. I didn’t wanna get shot.”

Bob Daugherty, manager at Papa John’s Pizza at 207 N. Federal Highway, said he and other employees were working about 10:45 a.m. when they saw police cars pull into the parking lot of the Town House Apartments behind the restaurant.

“They put on bulletproof vests and were pulling out these big guns,” Daugherty said. Moments later, an officer ordered everyone out of the restaurant and across the street.

“While I was running across the street a bunch of gunfire was going on. We were running across the street like hell,” he said. “There was gunfire going the whole time.”

Daugherty said the shooting continued sporadically for at least 30 minutes.

After an hour-and-a-half standoff with a growing phalanx of officers, the SWAT team entered the lobby just after noon, tossing in several “flashbang” noise and smoke fireworks as diversions and then rushing in. Inside they found Williams’ body draped over a couch. Police said one of his wounds was self-inflicted.

Inside, police also found more than 100 bullets, including live ammunition that was strewn about the lobby amid empty shell casings and fired rounds. They believe Williams kept ducking back behind a wall, reloading from a cache of bullets, and then running back into the lobby to fire at them.

In the aftermath, tenants and friends of the victims were stunned but not completely surprised by the eruption of violence.

Robert Montalvo, 40, lived on the fourth floor near Stuart Williams and Amanda Scheiber.

“He was off. He didn’t talk to anybody,” Montalvo said of Williams. “You’d get in the elevator and say ‘Hey, how are you? How was your day?’ and he’d stare at you like you were from Mars. But he didn’t bother anybody. I can’t imagine why he’d do this.”

Montalvo said Scheiber just got the job as office manager about three months ago. Her husband, Steve Scheiber, is a maintenance man at the apartment building.

Steven Scheiber rarely left his wife’s side, said a tenant who declined to give his name. But on Friday morning, the man had parked in the wrong spot and someone towed his car. Steve Scheiber was giving him a ride to the towing yard when his wife was shot.

Amanda Scheiber had been shot four times in the chest and arms. Hospital officials said she had lung injuries and damage to a large blood vessel near her heart. Doctors said the risk to her unborn child was high.

“She was in shock and she required a lot of blood,” said Dr. Lawrence Lottenberg, director of the hospital trauma center. “We will do everything we can to hold the baby with her. The first 48 hours are absolutely critical to her survival.”

Montalvo also knew Ben Neivert in passing. “There’s a lot of old people here,” he said. “They don’t want to be alone in their apartments. They want to be downstairs talking to their neighbors. All the old guys would sit down there. They all hung out all day. So you always had a hello when you came into the building.”

Friends of Neivert said the elderly man lived alone in his apartment and had a sign taped to his door for years that says “Do Not Disturb Before 11 a.m.” Neighbors agreed that he usually went out about 11:30 for a few hours. He sometimes went to the track. The neighbors said he was not one to sit and socialize in the lobby.

Justin Smallcomb, a friend of Dawn Garcia, worked with the 20-year-old clerk at a Hollywood printing shop and stood in shock outside the apartment building where she died.

“I had to come here to see this to believe it,” said Smallcomb, who had tried to reach Garcia on her cell phone early in the day. “I still don’t believe it. She had so much life ahead of her for one man to take away.”

Smallcomb said he’d helped Garcia move in about four months ago. “I told her, Dawn, don’t stay here. ... Just walking through the hallways, this is not a place I’d want to live.”

Hollywood Mayor Mara Giulianti said that the building is one city officials have tried to redevelop in downtown Hollywood. Once a haven for seniors, younger people have moved into the apartments in recent years, finding the rent — which ranges from $428 a month and up — affordable.

“It’s a rental property,” she said. “I often say, as a rental, that not everybody knows each other as well, so the police may have to work hard to put this together.”

Guy Riggi, who has lived in the building for seven years, bemoaned the changes the property has experienced in the past few years, all of them bad, he said.

“When I first moved into the building I had to go through a police background check to make sure I was safe so that this place was safe,” Riggi said.

“Now anybody can walk in that lobby. They don’t give a crap if they’ve just been in prison. They loaded this building with trash and now they’ve got the blood on their hands,” he said.

Staff Writers Vicki Agnew, Susannah Bryan, Rafael Olmeda and Terri Somers contributed to this report, along with Staff Researchers Barbara Hijek, Patti Parker and Kathryn Pease.

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