Authorities are seeking a Florida man suspected in a triple homicide Thursday. He is suspected of shooting his wife, another woman, and the pastor of the church of where his wife works. Law enforcement responded to a church shooting early Thursday afternoon when a witness called authorities minutes after speaking with Avalos. At the scene of the pastor’s killing, they were informed by a witness of two other bodies murdered at a nearby location in Bradenton.
Detectives went to the Florida home and found Andy Avalos’ wife and another woman dead. According to police, the cause of death has not been confirmed, but believe the women were killed first at the couple’s residence located at 1200 67th St. NW in Bradenton, Fl. Avalos was last seen by the church.
Florida law enforcement authorities are seeking the man connected with the triple homicide, Andres “Andy” Avalos, 33, who is believed to be armed and dangerous. Dave Bristow, Manatee County Sheriff’s Office spokesman, reported that Avalos was last seen in a gold 2003 Chevrolet Suburban with Florida license tag number 484VTZ. The SUV was later found Thursday night in a Wal-Mart parking lot abandoned. The vehicle was found at 6225 State Road 64. Avalos remains on the loose.
James “Tripp” Battle, 31, was the pastor of Bayshore Baptist Church located at 6502 14th St. in Bradenton. He was shot outside of a residence on the property that was used as an office. Battle went by the nickname “Tripp” according to the church website. Battle’s wife, Joy, was the secretary and together they had two kids.
Congregation member, E.W. Carpenter, has been a member of the church since the late 1950s. He regarded Battle as a great pastor. Church membership grew from just 30 people to over 100 people with Battle as pastor. He was kind and selfless and would give you “the shirt off his back” said Carpenter.
Sheriff Brad Steube, as reported by a local newspaper, said Battle and Avalos met in the courtyard of the church face to face prior to the shooting. Steube admitted the pastor saw it coming.
Avalos’ wife, Amber Avalos, 33, was the church’s children and nursery director per the church website. Also noted on the website is that Avalos’ father is a minister as well. Andy Avalos Sr., was celebrated in the Herald for his efforts mentoring troubled, at risk young Latinos. They reportedly had six children. All six are currently in protective custody said authorities.
Denise Potter, 46, was the third victim. According to local media reports she was the couple’s neighbor and the third victim of the shooting spree. According to preliminary reports, the killings were spawned by a domestic dispute authorities told reporters. Police had several leads in regards to a motive but were unable to disclose.
Another neighbor of Avalos, Jane Riley, told The Associated Press, the neighborhood close to the Florida Manatee River was a sweet little community. The people are not prone to acts of violence but she did add that back in 2008, a previous resident of the Avalos home was killed during a robbery.
Records with Manatee County show that Andres and Amber got married in Aug. 2000. According to Bristow, the six children were not in the home at the time of the shooting. All six were located and safe.
Avalos has had a few run-ins with the law. He did time in Hillsborough County Florida for several DUI convictions spanning the course of 2004 through 2012. In 2003, Avalos hopped out of some bushes at a Bradenton Florida home, forced a gun to a man’s head and pushed him inside reported the Bradenton Herald. A struggle between the men ensued and the gun went off hitting Avalos in the arm.
Avalos is still at large. Florida law enforcement authorities are saying they are seeking this man in connection to the triple homicide and if seen to notify the police immediately. They are cautioning everyone not to engage the suspect because he is believed to be armed and very dangerous.
By Stevenson Benoit
Photo by Joe Flood – Flickr License