Accused rampage shooter makes unruly court appearance

11:26 AM, Feb 15, 2010   |    comments
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  • Andre Watkins' booking photo after an alleged shooting spree and carjacking.
  • Akber Alwani

Tampa, Florida -- The man accused of this weekend's Hillsborough County shooting spree is still locked up after an unruly appearance in front of a judge.

Andre Watkins had his first day in court Sunday, but will be back before a judge again Tuesday -- this time, with a private attorney. He scoffed when a judge asked whether he needed a public defender.

Watkins is accused of killing 19-year-old Alyssa Aracich. Deputies say Watkins also shot two men, 27-year old Areil Love and 57-year old Akber Alwani. Both men have been upgraded to fair condition as they recover at Saint Joseph's Hospital.

On Sunday morning, Watkins appeared in court wearing a spit hood, leg irons, and cuffs. A group of Hillsborough County Sheriff's deputies surrounded Watkins and held him still as he squirmed against their grip.

Watkins complained of mistreatment. "Why are you letting them hurt my body this way?" Watkins asked the judge.

The 53-year old yelled obscenities at the judge when asked whether he needed to have a public defender appointed to handle his case. The judge reminded Watkins what he says in court can be used against him in the future.

While Watkins waits without bond in the Falkenburg Road Jail, the neighbors, friends, and family of the three people he's accused of shooting try to make sense of the Friday night rampage.

After shooting and killing Alyssa Aracich in a car, deputies say Watkins went to the door of Areil Love.

"They were saying it was a random shooting," says Elisa Ortiz, Love's neighbor across the street. Family members say Watkins shot Love in the chest when he opened the door. "I thought it was crazy. I don't understand why people do that for no reason," adds Ortiz.

Hillsborough Sheriff's deputies say Watkins then drove about a mile to a BP gas station at Linebaugh and Anderson and confronted the cashier inside. The store owner says what happened next is caught on a surveillance tape.

"Everything is on tape, that's 27 seconds long. There wasn't an argument, there wasn't a robbery. Just somebody gone mad," says store owner Bobby Ali.

Ali viewed the tape. He says it shows Watkins shooting 57-year old store clerk Akber Alwani in the stomach. Ali says the bullet went through Akber's stomach and out his lower back side.

Ali describes what happened Friday evening, "The suspect came into the store, requested a pack of cigarettes. Akber put the pack of cigarettes on the counter."

"He said, 'I hear you've been talking bad about me.' Akber said, 'Huh?' He repeated himself, and Akber said 'I don't know.' [Watkins] pulled the gun out from his left side and shot him."

Ali says he gave the tape to Hillsborough County deputies as part of their investigation.

Alwani has worked at the store for about two years and Ali says during that time he may have dealt with Watkins.

Ali says he and his staff are like family. He describes Alwani as his his right-hand man and friend. "When he was at the store, I could turn off the phone, because I know he can take care whatever happens and he will take care of it as if it's his own store," says Ali. "I trust him with my life."

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