Two hooded men enter the Green Galaxy Smoke Shop in Bradenton where the clerk was killed Sept. 17. Amado Zeppi, left, was arrested Sept. 18 on Longboat Key. Islander Photo: Courtesy MCSO
Law enforcement was still looking for a fourth man as of Sept. 23 in the Sept 17 murder of Mohammed Hamed at the smoke and vape shop in Bradenton. Islander Photo: Courtesy MCSO
A makeshift memorial for murder victim Mohammed Hamed greets customers Sept. 18 at the Green Galaxy Smoke Shop where he worked at 3212 First St. W., Bradenton. Islander Courtesy Photo
The Manatee County Sheriff’s Office arrested a man with Anna Maria Island-Longboat Key ties for the Sept. 17 murder of a 23-year-old Bradenton smoke shop clerk.
Amado Zeppi, 20, of Bradenton, the alleged shooter, was arrested after his shift at 10:45 p.m. Sept. 18 in the parking lot where he works, the Shore restaurant, 800 Broadway St., Longboat Key, less than 24 hours after the fatal shooting and robbery at the smoke shop.
Zeppi, formerly of Bradenton Beach, is charged in connection with the murder of Mohammed Hamed, who was operating the Green Galaxy Smoke and Vape Shop at 3212 First St. W., Bradenton, when Zeppi and the other suspects arrived at the store.
Zeppi is shown in store video shouldering an SKS — Soviet semi-automatic carbine — rifle fitted with a bayonet.
Two other men were arrested Sept. 20 for the robbery-turned-murder and investigators are looking for a fourth suspect.
Sheriff’s deputies arrested James L. Brewer, 19, of Bradenton, and Michael C. Hepner, 21, of Palmetto, Sept. 20 on the same charge as Zeppi.
MCSO was alerted to the incident by Hamed’s brother, who was monitoring store surveillance cameras from a remote location in Tampa, watched and called law enforcement.
MCSO alleges that Hepner drove Brewer, Zeppi and the fourth man to the shop. Brewer was first to enter, apparently in an attempt to distract the clerk. Brewer ran back and waited in the vehicle as Zeppi — armed with the rifle and bayonet — and the fourth man, with their faces covered, entered the shop.
Hamed’s brother watched as Hamed was forced to the back room to open a safe. The men filled a bag with items, according to the sheriff’s office reports.
While in the back room, Zeppi allegedly struck Hamed with the bayonet and the gun discharged, killing Hamed. The men then returned to the vehicle, which left the scene with Hepner behind the wheel.
The three suspects are being held at the Manatee County jail without bond.
Zeppi previously lived in the 2400 block of Avenue B in Bradenton Beach, according to police and court records.
He faces a second-degree murder charge and probation violations. His bond was revoked for alleged probation violations, according to MCSO and 12th Circuit Court records.
Public information officer Randy Warren said the robbery attempt and homicide involved a fourth man who wore a blue jacket with an “Aero 87” insignia, as shown in a video and photographs released by the department after the killing.
Holmes Beach and Longboat Key police assisted in the investigation after cameras at the smoke shop helped identify Zeppi. MCSO tracked his whereabouts on the HBPD and LBK license recognition cameras.
Zeppi, a repeat offender, pleaded no contest in April 2018 to charges relating to an October 2017 break-in at a Holmes Beach residence.
In that incident, HBPD arrested Zeppi as he loaded an SUV with TVs and kayaks on Palm Harbor Drive, carrying Mace and a knife. He swore and spit at police and was arrested on numerous charges, including armed burglary, grand theft, battery to a law enforcement officer, possessing burglary tools and criminal mischief.
The judge sentenced Zeppi to five years of drug offender probation for the October 2017 burglary and ordered a concurrent sentence for a separate case against him stemming from a July 2017 HBPD drug and paraphernalia arrest.
Anyone with information about the crime is asked to call the MCSO at 941-747-3011 or Manatee County Crime Stoppers at 866-634-8477 (TIPS).