TAMPA — John M. Dooley, the cab driver shot to death Sunday night in Sulphur Springs, often gave rides to residents in the high crime areas of that community because many cab drivers steered clear of those streets after dark, his younger brother said Wednesday.
“He was a cab driver for 32 years,” said Jim Dooley, speaking from the home in Hudson he shared with his older brother. “He had lot of regular customers and that’s probably why he was in that part of town. He frequented that area because others cab drivers wouldn’t go down there. But he felt fairly safe there.”
Tampa police say the cabbie was shot and killed in a robbery attempt by three men.
Detectives arrested one man late Tuesday and were looking for two accomplices in the fatal shooting that occurred around 8 p.m. Sunday.
Nineteen-year-old Devante Bell, of 1509 E. New Orleans Ave., Tampa, faces one count of first-degree murder and robbery with a firearm, police said. He remained in the Hillsborough County jail Wednesday. Bail had not been set.
Police arrived at the intersection of Eskimo Avenue and 18th Street on Sunday night to find Dooley, 56, dead inside his Yellow Cab with the door open.
Detectives examined the phone records at the cab company and found a call made from a cell phone belonging to Bell, who still had the phone on him when he was taken into custody the next day.
Bell gave detectives a statement, saying he called Yellow Cab around 7:45 p.m. Sunday, knowing his two accomplices were planning to rob the driver. The cab picked the three men up on Mallory Avenue.
“While riding in the back seat of the cab, one of the suspects shot and killed the cab driver and the vehicle sped out of control,” said an arrest affidavit.
One of the men was riding in the front seat and grabbed the steering wheel after Dooley was shot, the affidavit said.
Bell and one of the suspects wiped down the interior of the vehicle before fleeing the scene, the affidavit said.
The names of the two accomplices were not released by police, who also would not say if any money was stolen from the cab driver.
The shooting has Jim Dooley wondering why this happened to his brother, who loved driving a cab.
“I asked him once if he would have rather done something else with his life and he said no,” Jim Dooley said. “He just loved it.”
John Dooley enjoyed doing yard work around the house and the brothers often shot pool in a league in nearby Hernando County, he said.
“He loved listening to music and he was a big fan of the Bucs and Rays,” he said. “He had a lot of friends.’’
Detectives continued to follow leads Wednesday, said police spokeswoman Janelle McGregor.
Bell has been arrested before, beginning in July 2008 when he was 14.
In that incident, Bell was charged with shoplifting from the Kmart on North Florida Avenue.
In September 2009, he was involved in a fight with his mother and was charged with misdemeanor battery, records show.
A month after that, Bell was arrested by police, who charged him with snatching a cell phone from a fellow Hillsborough High School classmate as she walked home from school.
Bell told police he needed money but said he threw the phone into a retention pond. The next day, his mother brought the phone into the school and gave it to the resource officer, the report said.
In August, 2010, Bell was cited, but not jailed, near Ybor City for underage drinking, records say.
Though there had been few other serious crimes of violence on cab drivers recently, the area did run through a spate in 2008 and 2009 where cabbies were targeted:
* In October 2009, Tampa Bay Buccaneers cornerback Aqib Talib was charged with battery on a Pinellas County cab driver two months earlier. He was accused of striking the cabbie while he was driving Talib and two other Buccaneers from a St. Petersburg night club to a Tampa hotel. Talib eventually reached a civil settlement with the cab driver but was suspended one game by the National Football League.
* In January 2009, a Hernando County cab driver was beaten by a man who had called for a ride home from a bar. The cab driver arrived at the Spring Hill bar around 2 a.m. to pick up his fare. When the driver asked the fare where he was headed, the man responded with a profanity and then started pummeling the cabbie.
* In July 2008, a female cab driver’s body was found near a middle school in St. Petersburg. Her cab turned up later in South Pasadena. The female cabbie’s death was one of a handful of incidents occurring over two days where Pinellas County cabbies were victimized.
* In July 2008, two St. Petersburg cab drivers were victims of armed robberies in one night. One said a gun was put to his head by a man who approached the driver’s side of the car and demanded money. The other driver was shot by a man who approached his passenger side window. The cab driver was shot in the collarbone as he hit the accelerator to pull away.
Cab companies say there is always a concern for the safety of the drivers.
“I’ve worked at United for years, Yellow Cab for years and I’ve been here for quite a while,” said Cab Plus manager Stephanie Montesi. Most cab companies, she said, have a code they call over the radio to alert cab dispatchers of trouble.
On tablets cab drivers use, there also is an emergency button to send a silent alarm to dispatch and other drivers.