Two people charged after shooting at North Washington Boulevard business results in man’s death

Suspects allegedly were engaged in attempted robbery at time of incident

Willie Abnar III. Image courtesy Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office

Following a Jan. 29 shooting that left one person dead on North Washington Boulevard in Sarasota, the Sarasota Police Department has arrested two people, the agency reported on Jan. 30.

Willie D. Abnar III, 29, of 1861 60th Ave. W. in Bradenton, and Ka’liyah Brown, 18, of 995 Virginia Drive in Sarasota, have been confined in the Sarasota County Jail, a news release says. Each has been charged with single counts of Felony Murder and Attempted Armed Robbery, their probable cause affidavits note.

No bond was set in Abnar’s case, the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office Correction Division records show. His arraignment is set for March 11, the records note. Total bond of $1 million has been set for Brown, the Corrections Division records show; her arraignment has been scheduled for March 11.

The shooting was reported just after 6:30 a.m. on Saturday, Jan. 29, Genevieve Judge, the Police Department’s public information officer, reported in a news release. It occurred at Switchinlanez Autogroup, which is located at 3000 N. Washington Blvd. (U.S. 301), according to the narrative in the probable cause affidavits for Abnar and Brown. The business’ Facebook page says it handles auto sales and repairs.

When Sarasota Police officers arrived on the scene, the news release explains, they “found an adult man with a gunshot wound. He was taken to Sarasota Memorial Hospital with life-threatening injuries.”

The man died at the hospital, the release points out. His name is being withheld as allowed by the state’s Marsy’s Law, the release adds.

Upon arrival at Switchinlanez on Jan. 29, the probable cause affidavits say, Sarasota Police officers “observed a black male subject … lying on the south side” of the 30th Street roadway “with a gunshot wound to his chest.”

Officers determined that the shooting took place inside the business, the narrative adds. They found four people within the building, it notes, including Brown.

“Officers also located a handgun and numerous shell casings directly inside the threshold of the front door,” the affidavits point out.

All the potential suspects were transported to the Police Department headquarters on Adams Lane in downtown Sarasota so detectives could interview them, the affidavits continue.

Ka’liyah Brown. Image courtesy Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office

One person, whose name was redacted in the affidavits, told detectives that Abnar and another individual had driven to a parking lot off University Parkway. Officers learned from a witness that a woman in Abnar’s vehicle, whom the person identified as Brown, said she “needed to go to Sarasota to make a ‘play,’” which the person “interpreted to mean prostitution,” the affidavits continue.

A woman told the detectives that “Brown asked her if she wanted to ‘join in’ with the act of prostitution and she agreed,” the affidavits say.

The woman then said that they went to Switchinlanez, where she and Brown “met with a larger black male with gold teeth,” whom Brown referred to as “J,” the affidavits add.

An individual whose name was redacted “was supposed to give Brown $350.00 for ‘the play,’” the affidavits continue, “but he only had $320.00. The affidavits indicate that the aforementioned woman “stated that Brown gave her $150.00 for her share of the ‘play,” and Brown then went to the bathroom inside the building.

The woman told the detectives “that she could hear Brown talking to someone on the phone from inside the bathroom,” the affidavits add. Brown eventually exited the bathroom and said she needed to go outside to turn off the ignition of her car. A male became suspicious, the affidavits point out, that Brown “was going to leave with his money,” but eventually he and Brown agreed that Brown could go outside to deal with the vehicle.

One of the witnesses then told the detectives that after Brown left the building, Abnar and a second male exited their vehicle, which also was parked outside the business. They were “holding pistols and wearing masks over their faces,” the affidavits add.

A female witness told the detectives that another male, who also was holding a firearm, pushed past her and moved toward the two masked, armed men. She added that she heard three or four gunshots.

The woman locked herself in a room with Brown and tried to call 911, the affidavits continue.

This is a street view of the business located at 3000 N. Washington Blvd. in Sarasota. Image from Google Maps

During their investigation following the incident, the affidavits point out, detectives interviewed one man who said he had called an escort service and had arranged to meet with a female — who ended up being Brown — at Switchinlanez; he also had agreed to pay the female $350 “in exchange for sexual favors.”

That man told detectives that shortly after Brown arrived at the business, he paid her $320. Afterward, he said, she went into the bathroom, the affidavits note. When she came back o out, the affidavits say, he saw her texting, and then she went outside to her car. When she returned, the man reported, “[S]he was followed by two masked armed black males,” the affidavits continue.

One of the persons the detectives interviewed said he had armed himself with a semi-automatic handgun, the affidavits add. When one of the masked men pointed a firearm directly at him, the affidavits say, the man told the detectives that he fired his gun to defend himself.

Brown told the detectives that she went to the business “to collect money owed to her friend for drugs,” as her friend had supplied a person with ecstasy, and that person owed her friend $320, the affidavits point out.

Brown provided “false statements to law enforcement” as she proceeded with a narrative about the alleged transaction regarding the drugs, the affidavits say.

A map shows the location of Switchinlanez in North Sarasota. Image from Google Maps

After reviewing the video from the surveillance system within the business, the affidavits add, the detectives believed “[i]t was evident that Abnar and Brown participated in setting up the attempted robbery” that led to the death of the man whom officers had found outside Switchinlanez.

“This incident remains an active and ongoing investigation,” the Police Department news release points out. “Anyone with information is asked to call the Sarasota Police Department Criminal Investigations Division at 941-263-6070.”

Prior charges

Sarasota Police Department vehicles are parked near Switchinlanez Autogroup on Jan. 29. Image courtesy Sarasota Police Department

When The Sarasota News Leader checked 12th Judicial Circuit Court records this week, it found a number of charges against Abnar, dating back to January 2011. They included three drug possession cases, one of which involved cocaine; one incident in which he was charged with providing false ownership information for pawned items that had been stolen; and counts of driving without a license.

Additionally, on March 29, 2017, Abnar was charged with Aggravated Assault with a Weapon without Intent to Kill and Resisting an Officer with Violence, court records show.

In that case, a Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office deputy wrote that a woman reported that she was visiting a female friend when the friend’s boyfriend — Abnar — “became upset with them over lost keys, and began to yell at both parties,” accusing them of hiding the keys, the probable cause affidavit explains.

During the dispute, the woman said, “Abnar pulled a revolver that was concealed in his right [pants] pocket, and began waving it around in the house.” The woman added that he pointed the gun directly at her and the girlfriend, the affidavit notes.

While officers were trying to arrest Abnar, the affidavit continues, he pushed away from them “and attempted to run out of the front door of the residence.” Abnar ended up shoving two officers several times, the affidavit points out.

In that case, Abnar ended up pleading “No contest” to counts of Possession of a Firearm or Ammunition or Concealed Weapon by Convicted Felon, Carrying a Concealed Weapon, Possession of Controlled Substance without a Prescription, and Resisting an Officer without Violence. He was sentenced to three years in jail, another court document says.

The News Leader found no prior charges for Brown in the 12th Judicial Circuit Court records.