2 suspects arrested in connection with Jan. 19 shooting at Sarasota Commons that resulted in one death

Men being held without bond in Sarasota County Jail

Joseph L. Brice Jr. Image courtesy Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office

Two suspects have been arrested in connection with the Jan. 19 shooting at Sarasota Commons on North Beneva Road in Sarasota, which resulted in the death of one man, The Sarasota News Leader has learned.

Joseph Lamondzo Brice Jr., 31, of 2111 19th St., Sarasota, has been charged with one count of murder with a firearm, while 26-year-old Juan J. Claudio, of 269 Cantabria Trail in Bradenton, has been charged with a third-degree felony count of murder, their Probable Cause Affidavits say.

The Sarasota Police Department arrested Claudio on Jan. 26; the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office arrested Brice on Jan. 31, using an arrest warrant that the Police Department had issued, as noted in Brice’s Corrections Division record and information from the Sheriff’s Office’s Community Affairs Division.

Both men are being held without bond, the arrest records note.

Claudio’s arraignment is scheduled for March 8, while Brice’s arraignment is set for March 15.

The victim identified in the affidavits was Jamez R. White.

The affidavits explain that when the first Sarasota Police officers arrived on the scene at Sarasota Commons, in response to the Jan. 19 shooting, one found White lying face-up on the ground “with multiple gunshot wounds.” White was transported to Sarasota Memorial Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 12:22 p.m. that day, the affidavits add.

Officers also found blood on the ground, one 9mm bullet casing, six .40-caliber bullet casings, and a black, “9mm handgun with an extended magazine on the ground” in the parking lot of the post office within Sarasota Commons, the affidavits say.

The incident was reported to the Police Department at 11:32 a.m. on Jan. 19.

The same day, the affidavits continue, Sarasota Police detectives interviewed Claudio, who owns a Mercedes C-300 that had been identified as the vehicle involved in the shooting.

Claudio told the detectives that White spent the night of Jan. 18 at Claudio’s home. Then, the following morning, the affidavits say, White asked Claudio to drive him to the 7-Eleven on Cortez Road in Bradenton to pick up Brice.

The affidavits add that Claudio explained to the detectives that Brice asked Claudio to take him to a Bradenton apartment complex called Preserve on 51st, which is located on 51st Street.

At that complex, the Police Department affidavit continues, Brice walked into an apartment to collect a credit card from a female whom Claudio said he did not know. Afterward, Brice asked Claudio to drive him to a Chase Bank branch in Sarasota, to which Brice gave Claudio directions.

When they reached the bank, the affidavit says, White and Claudio remained in the car while Brice went inside. (Claudio told the detectives, according to the affidavit, that he did not recall the bank’s location.)

Then, when Brice came out of the bank, Claudio said, they drove to the post office in Sarasota Commons, which stands at 935 Beneva Road.

Juan Claudio. Image courtesy Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office

Claudio told the detectives that after he backed his car into a handicapped parking space in front of the post office, Brice — who was in the back seat — handed White a Chase Visa card, and White gave it to Claudio. Brice asked Claudio to go inside the post office and get a $1,000 money order, the affidavit continues.

Claudio reported that he went into the post office, leaving White in the front passenger seat of the Mercedes, with Brice in the right rear passenger seat. While he was inside the post office, Claudio told the detectives, he heard five gunshots. “Claudio said he and several other post office customers ducked down inside the post office because they didn’t know what was happening,” the affidavit notes. “Moments later, Claudio walked outside and saw that his vehicle was gone,” the affidavit says.

A man he did not know told Claudio about the shooting and seeing the Mercedes head out of the parking lot. When Claudio walked over to the spot where had parked the car, the affidavit continues, he saw White on the ground, bleeding.

Claudio then used the “Find My Car” app to locate the Mercedes, the affidavit says; he provided that location to law enforcement officers. Officers located the vehicle at 2800 51st St. E. in Bradenton, the affidavit adds. Officers seized it and transported it to the Sarasota Police Department.

Claudio gave Brice’s Chase Bank Visa card to a patrol officer at Sarasota Commons, the affidavit adds. Detectives saw Brice’s full name on the credit card, the affidavit notes.

When the detectives showed Claudio a photo line-up with six pictures, including one of Brice, Claudio identified Brice as the person who had been with him and White prior to the shooting.

An eyewitness account and information from the victim’s sister

Further, the affidavit points out, detectives “interviewed a confidential witness at the [Sarasota Commons] scene,” who reported having been walking through the shopping center parking lot when the gunshots rang out. “The witness turned around and saw a sliver Mercedes fleeing the area eastbound through the parking lot,” and a Black male was holding a firearm outside a window of the car, the affidavit says.

Detectives also viewed surveillance video from the shopping center, the affidavit notes, and they interviewed White’s sister, Jazzmen White, at the hospital.

Jazzmen White told the detectives that she had received a phone call from Claudio, who told her that Brice had shot her brother, the affidavit adds. “Jazzmen informed law enforcement that Claudio runs the operation (Bank Fraud) and that Jamez White went along to make money,” the affidavit continues.

This is an aerial view of Sarasota Commons. Image from Google Maps

During their investigation, the affidavit continues, detectives received information that Claudio, White and Brice “had a large amount of U.S. currency and that they were going to different banks in the area to withdraw cash from fraudulent accounts. Detectives were also informed that a female known as ‘Destiny’ was involved in the bank fraud with Claudio.”

The affidavit adds, “A search of the [Mercedes] revealed numerous high money bands, a Chase Bank receipt,” and one projectile in the front passenger door pocket. Further, a bullet hole was seen in the back passenger exterior door, lined up with the front passenger door pocket, where the projectile was located. Several banking documents were in the glove box, the affidavit also notes.

‘Money Drop’ allegations

Anonymous sources advised Sarasota Police detectives that “Brice and Claudio had been scamming banks by making what is known as ‘Money Drops,’” the affidavit explains. “The source also said that he/she did not know exactly how the scam works.”

Further, the affidavit says, that source told the detectives, that “Claudio owed Brice a large amount of money from a previous bank scheme … and there was animosity between Brice and Claudio, and … Brice was planning to rob Claudio.”

With Claudio’s attorney present, the affidavit says, the detectives reinterviewed Claudio. At that time, Claudio “admitted that he, Brice, and White went to several [Chase Bank branches], but he insisted that he did not know their locations.” At each branch, the affidavit continues, Claudio reported that Brice would go inside and then walk out with an envelope containing money.

On one occasion, Claudio added, Brice asked him to go into the bank, and he agreed to do so. Claudio told the detectives that he “fraudulently obtained approximately $3,500.00 and then returned to his car.” That was the last branch they went to before driving to the post office in Sarasota Commons, Claudio said, as noted in the affidavit.

The red balloon marks the location of the Sarasota Crossings shopping center in Sarasota, where a Chase Bank branch is located, according to Chase’s website. Image from Google Maps

Claudio then agreed to allow a Police Department forensics specialist to review information on his cell phone, the affidavit adds. The specialist confirmed a visit to a Chase Bank branch located at the intersection of Honore Avenue and Fruitville Road, the affidavit says.

While looking into Claudio’s background, the affidavit continues, detectives found that, in December 2022, a person had reported to law enforcement officers that Claudio had “asked her to invest $1,000.00 toward his shoe business …” In return, the woman said, Claudio told her she would receive $10,000 in profit. The woman agreed to invest $300, the affidavit notes. At Claudio’s request, she tried three different apps to get the money, but none of them worked. Thus, Claudio ended up coming to her apartment, where she gave him the $300, the affidavit says.

Afterward, she reported, Claudio “blocked her phone number and social media outlets so she could not reach him,” the affidavit adds. Therefore, she realized she had been scammed, it notes.

A second incident cited in the affidavits says that Claudio was stopped by a police officer on Dec. 6, 2023, while he was driving the Mercedes. At the time, Claudio was on felony probation, the affidavit adds. When officers searched the vehicle, it notes, they found a .45-caliber gun in the glove box; it contained 11 rounds. They also discovered two checks: one made out to a woman in the amount of $537.80 and a second, made out to Destiny Austin for $28,376.50, the affidavit continues.

When the detectives questioned him about the two women, the affidavit says, Claudio replied that he knew Destiny but not the other female. However, he “refused to provide any information about Destiny Austin.”

On Jan. 24, the affidavit continues, detectives executed a search warrant on Claudio’s iPhone. They found a screenshot of a message exchanged between Claudio and a female named Jayda McKnight, the affidavit says. The detectives then saw that Claudio and McKnight began messaging each other the day after White’s death, discussing plans to make a “Money Drop” that would net each of them $11,500, while another associate — referred to as “Plug” — would make $26,000.

Further the detectives found a screenshot including the photo of a Cathay Bank check from the Acme Furniture Industry in California that was made out to McKnight, with a Sarasota address, in the amount of $48,541.75. The detectives also found a picture of a Chase Bank Visa card with McKnight’s name, the affidavit notes. Then they discovered a screenshot with information about a Chase Bank balance of $48,548.89, available on Jan. 25.

Moreover, the detectives learned that a call from Brice’s cell phone number was made to Claudio on Jan. 19, after the shooting, and it was not answered. The affidavit points out that Claudio had denied having a phone number for Brice.

The affidavit concludes with the statement that the detectives believed Claudio should be charged with Felony Murder because Jamez White was killed during the commission of bank fraud involving Claudio.

A News Leader search of the records of the 12th Judicial Circuit Court in Sarasota found only one case involving McKnight, 19. It pertained to an October 2022 citation charging her with Driving While License Canceled, Suspended or Revoked. The citation listed a North Port address.

Cynthia McLaughlin, public information officer for the Sarasota Police Department, had no information about McKnight, in response to a News Leaderinquiry on Feb. 1. However, McLaughlin stressed that the investigation into the shooting is continuing.

On the Classmates website, the News Leader found that a person named Jayda McKnight graduated from Riverview High School in Sarasota in 2020. However, the News Leader could not determine with certainty that she was the McKnight named in the affidavit.