Lakeland man charged with murder in July 2 shooting

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The Lakeland Police Department has arrested a 24-year-old man on charges that he fatally shot his roommate July 2 at Big Oaks Apartments.

LPD detectives arrested Thomas Anthony Rivera on Thursday and charged him with second-degree murder, the agency said in a news release. Rivera had been in custody since July 3 on charges of tampering with evidence and providing false information to law enforcement officers.

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Officers responded July 2 at 4:47 p.m. to a report of a shooting from Big Oaks Apartments, 1586 Big Oaks Drive, the release said. Officers found a 24-year-old man inside an apartment with a gunshot wound.

LPP officers rendered aid until emergency medical responders from Lakeland Fire Department and Polk County Fire Rescue arrived, the release said. The victim was transported to Lakeland Regional Health and later pronounced dead.

The Lakeland Police Department has not released the victim’s name, citing a state law that protects the identities of crime victims.

Rivera had initially claimed that he had left the apartment he shared with the victim to walk his dog when he heard gunshots, returned to the apartment and found the victim, the release said. He also claimed he had seen two men running from the location with guns.

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Video surveillance at the property refuted Rivera’s descriptions, the release said. Evidence found at the scene indicated that Rivera was the only person in the apartment at the time of the shooting and was in close proximity to the victim when he was killed, LPD said.

Witness interviews determined that Rivera had waited 30 minutes or longer to call for emergency help, the release said.

Rivera was in Polk County Jail on Monday and listed as not eligible for bond.

No other details are being released to protect the integrity of the investigation, LPD said. Anyone with information is encouraged to contact Detective Troy Smith at 863-834-8958 or troy.smith@lakelandgov.net.

Tips may be submitted anonymously at www.heartlandcrimestoppers.com or by calling 1-800-226 TIPS (8477).

Gary White can be reached at gary.white@theledger.com or 863-802-7518. Follow on Twitter @garywhite13.

This article originally appeared on The Ledger: Florida man charged with murder in July roommate shooting