LEALMAN (AP) — A former Tampa Bay-area middle school principal who lost his job over a drug arrest five years ago went on a rampage Friday, stabbing several people — killing at least two — and then driving his car into a crowded porch before attacking two others at a motel, authorities said.
Anthony Giancola, 45, was taken into custody Friday afternoon and charged hours later with two counts of first-degree murder and two counts of attempted first-degree murder, the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office reported. Authorities said there were 11 victims in all, and several are being treated at area hospitals for injuries ranging from minor to life-threatening.
Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said Giancola told his mother in the morning that he was “going to kill all the drug dealers.”
The crime spree began shortly before 11 a.m. in Lealman, a small city in Pinellas County near St. Petersburg and Pinellas Park.
That’s when Giancola went to a group home for the hearing impaired, where authorities said he stabbed four people. Officials said Justin Lee Vand, 27, died at the scene, and Mary Anne Allis, 59, died at a nearby hospital. Injured were Danielle Whitney Gilbert, 25, and Janice Denise Rhoden, 44. Of the two wounded, one person was reported to be in serious condition. There was no immediate indication that the victims were involved in criminal activity. A child who lived there was not home at the time, said neighbors were stunned by the day’s events.
“It’s crazy,” sighed Ken Seidl, 52, who lives down the street from the group home. “There’s always problems in this neighborhood, drugs, prostitution. But never (anything) this drastic.”
Pinellas County Sheriff’s spokeswoman Cecelia Barreda said officers are still piecing together the timeline.
“It appears at this moment, this is all random,” said Barreda, stressing that the details of the story could change throughout the evening.
However, she said, investigators believe that after the stabbings at around 11:30 a.m., Giancola pulled up in front of a house in Pinellas Park and asked residents where he could find women. The residents told him to go away, and Giancola drove away angry. He soon returned and crashed his car into their porch, injuring three women and one man, police said. The women were taken to a nearby hospital, but the man refused treatment.
Giancola also hit a 13-year-old boy on a bike as he was fleeing, officials said. The boy’s injuries were minor.
Soon after, investigators reported, Giancola went to the Kenvins Motel in Pinellas Park, where he attacked the married couple who own the motel with a hammer. Kanu and Indiranden Patel, both 57, were taken to a nearby hospital for treatment. The husband is in critical condition, officials said.
By that time, officers had spoken with victims who were able to communicate and had pieced together the name of the suspect, Barreda said. A police dog tracked Giancola to near a storage facility and that’s where he was arrested.
Giancola was first arrested in 2007. Authorities said he bought $20 of crack cocaine from an undercover police officer during the school day in his office at Van Buren Middle School in Tampa. Giancola eventually pleaded guilty to purchasing crack cocaine, possessing crack cocaine and possessing marijuana. Court records show he was sentenced to a year in jail and three years of probation.
A message left at a telephone listing for Giancola seeking comment from his family wasn’t immediately returned. It wasn’t clear if he had an attorney.
The sheriff’s office said the Florida Highway Patrol was investigating the hit-and-run, and Pinellas Park police were investigating the motel attack. It wasn’t immediately clear if charges had been filed in either of those cases.
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