RIVERVIEW — When Walter Ballard ran into his buddy Ronnie Oneal four days ago, nothing about him foreshadowed the horror that was to come.
"He was good," Ballard recalled. "We were just catching up."
Then, on Sunday night, Ballard got a call from his 14-year-old brother. The boy, watching from their mother’s house across the street in the Royal Lakes subdivision of the Summerfield community, said Oneal was fighting with the mother of his children in the couple’s front lawn.
Then, Ballard said, as the boy watched, Oneal shot 33-year-old Kenyatta Barron.
Deputies would arrive to find Oneal, 29, had also fatally stabbed the couple’s daughter, seriously injured their 8-year-old son and set their home on fire, according to the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office.
By Monday morning, Oneal had been booked into the Hillsborough County jail on two counts of first-degree murder, one count of attempted first-degree murder, arson and resisting arrest.
"I was shocked," Ballard said. "That’s the only thing that went through my mind: How could he do something like this?"
The first of two bizzare 911 calls came about 11:43 p.m.
A female caller pleaded for help, saying she had been shot, and a male is overheard in the background yelling, "Allah Akbar," according to the Sheriff’s Office.
In a news release, the Sheriff’s Office gave this account of what happened next:
At one point, the female caller seems to say, "I’m so sorry Ronnie," as she screams loudly. A male can be heard saying, "She killed me," and, "Don’t come outside, call 911 now," according to the news release.
In a second call, about 11:51 p.m., a male caller says, "I’ve just been attacked by some white demons." He then says, "Her name is Ke-Ke and she tried to kill me and I just killed her."
The caller provided an address, 13248 Pike Lake Dr., and then the line went dead. The number was later confirmed as belonging to Oneal.
Sheriff’s deputies arrived at the scene about 11:49 p.m. to find Barron in the front yard of a house next door, at 13246 Pike Lake Dr. Deputies and a crew from Hillsborough County Fire Rescue were helping her when they noticed what appeared to be a fire starting in the home at 13248 Pike Lake Dr.
Deputies forced their way into the home just as the automatic garage door opened and Oneal walked out toward them.
Deputies ordered him to stop and get on the ground a number of times but he ignored them, so they fired their electronic weapons, incapacitating him, the Sheriff’s Office said.
Oneal was placed in the back of a deputy’s vehicle and began repeating, "Allah Akbar," deputies said. The Arabic phrase "Allahu Akbar" means "God is greatest."
As firefighters entered the house, a boy later identified as Ronnie Oneal IV, apparently suffering from burns and stab wounds, walked out, saying, "My father shot my mother."
Firefighters also found the body of a girl inside the home, the victim of stab wounds, the Sheriff’s Office said. She was later identified as the daughter of Oneal and Barron but the Sheriff’s Office had not released her name by Monday evening.
Both Barron and her daughter were pronounced dead at the scene. The Medical Examiner’s Office later determined the woman and girl were victims of a homicide.
Ronnie Oneal IV had been stabbed in the torso and neck and was listed in stable condition, the Sheriff’s Office said.
Oneal’s clothing was covered with what appeared to be blood, the Sheriff’s Office said. He also had signs of burns, including a severe burn to his left forearm, and smelled of gasoline or another flammable material, the Sheriff’s Office said.
Neighbor David Huber said he was in his game room in the back of his house Sunday night when he heard "a really loud bang" followed by "yelling and screaming."
"We thought somebody crashed into a pole," Huber, 31, said Monday.
Moments later, patrol cars, fire trucks and ambulances swarmed the usually quiet street. Huber said deputies were shouting.
"I heard them yelling, ‘Get down on the floor, get the hell down,’" he said.
Huber peeked out his window later and saw a body bag in the street.
As Huber spoke, Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office forensic workers gathered evidence from the beige house at 13248 Pike Lake where Oneal and his family lived.
Property records show the three-bedroom house is owned by Vettus Investment Properties in Valrico.
"I couldn’t believe this happened in this neighborhood," Huber said. "You usually hear stuff like this over in Tampa, not in Summerfield."
Oneal has been arrested three times before in Florida on charges of obtaining food or lodging with intent to defraud, marijuana possession and driving without a valid license, state records show. He was last arrested in Hillsborough County in 2009.
In 2012, a Hillsborough judge ruling on a paternity petition filed by Barron found that Ronnie Oneal IV was Oneal’s biological son and ordered the elder Oneal to pay monthly child support for the boy and another child, court records show.
Last October, a judge found that Oneal was delinquent in child support payments to Barron and ordered him to pay $1,735.32 that was due, records show.
The couple were not married, a Sheriff’s Office spokesman said.
The Times Bay Times was unable to reach any of their relatives Monday.
Ballard, Oneal’s friend, said they first met about seven years ago. Ballard’s mother lives across the street, and the two men recently reconnected after Ballard returned from Miami and moved in with his mother.
Oneal is a devout Muslim who played with his kids and never gave any indication he was capable of violence, Ballard said. He worked odd jobs and had a passion for hip hop music, setting up a makeshift recording studio in the garage.
"There’s nothing bad to say about him," Ballard said. "He was a good guy."
Ballard said Oneal did talk about troubles, in a general way.
"He always told me had demons," Ballard said, "but I never thought it was like that. I don’t know what would make him do anything to his kids."
Here is the scene in the Royal Lakes community off Big Bend Road. Evidence markers dot the ground in front of the home that deputies found on fire. pic.twitter.com/w4gt8LxFVA— Tony Marrero (@TMarreroTimes) March 19, 2018
Senior news researcher John Martin and staff writers Dennis Joyce and Carl Lisciandrello contributed to this report. Contact Tony Marrero at [email protected] or (813) 226-3374. Follow @tmarrerotimes.