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A Florida man, out on bail on sexual assault charges, is accused of shooting and killing his girlfriend and wounding her roommate this weekend, county authorities said.
Christopher Pequeen, 33, allegedly gunned down his girlfriend, Heather Rivenbark, following a domestic dispute at their Bartow, Florida apartment, which they shared with another couple, on Sunday, according to Polk County Sheriff’s Office. Pequeen also allegedly shot and injured one of his roommates.
County authorities were dispatched to the residence around 8:30 a.m. on Nov. 8 after receiving reports of a shooting, according to an arrest affidavit obtained by Oxygen.com.
Deputies arrived and found Nicholette Higgins, identified as the couple’s roommate, who had been pistol-whipped and shot in the chest. Inside the apartment, authorities found Rivenbark, who had sustained “multiple gunshot wounds” to her chest, the arrest affidavit stated.
Riverbank later died at Lakeland Regional Health Medical Center.
The shooting was fueled by a violent physical encounter the couple had gotten into hours before gunfire broke out in the apartment, the couple's roommates told investigators.
Higgins, who survived the shooting, alleged Rivenbark burst into her room that morning, claiming that Pequeen had just tried to “kill her,” law enforcement said.
“[She] told them that she was scared that Pequeen was going to kill her and that he had held his hand over her nose and mouth so that she could not breathe,” the affidavit stated.
Rivenbark, while seeking refuge in her roommates’ quarters, indicated she intended to seek a restraining order against Pequeen, the arrest affidavit alleged.
An “hour or two” later, Pequeen entered the bedroom and allegedly shot Rivenbark, who was sitting on the bed. He then pointed the gun at Higgins and allegedly opened fire as she attempted to “shield” her roommate from the gunfire.
“Pequeen then pointed the gun at [the second victim] who appeared to be trying to shield [the victim] and shot her with one shot from the pistol,” the affidavit added. “Pequeen pointed the gun back at [the victim] and fired what [the witness] believed to be two more rounds in her direction.”
Pequeen then allegedly turned the pistol on Higgin’s boyfriend, Michael Beam, who also lives in the residence, and was in the bedroom at the time of the shooting.
“Pequeen then pointed the pistol at [Beam] and told him, ‘You’re next,’” authorities alleged in the affidavit.
Beam, who dashed out of the room, notified neighbors, who alerted county authorities.
“He shot her, he shot her,” one witness told police he heard Beam yelling shortly after hearing what he described as gunshots, according to the affidavit.
Witnesses also told police they heard loud sounds, which they described as, “boom boom boom,” around the time of the shooting.
Pequeen, who also allegedly robbed Beam and Higgins of their cellphones, then fled the property but was apprehended nearby. He was wounded in a scuffle with a police dog and required medical treatment.
A “partially buried” nine millimeter gun was unearthed by detectives beneath a palm tree of a neighboring property, which they suspect Pequeen stashed there while fleeing authorities, the affidavit stated.
Pequeen reportedly moved into the Bartow apartment roughly two months ago, investigators said.
He has been slapped with a flurry of charges, including first-degree murder, first-degree attempted murder, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill, robbery with a firearm, resisting arrest, striking or injuring a police dog, tampering with physical evidence, and tampering in felony life capital proceedings.
“[We will] do everything we can to make sure justice is done in this case,” Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said, according to ABC affiliate WRIC. “This is an example of how horrific domestic violence can become. Christopher Pequeen is a coward and a murderer.”
At the time of his arrest, Pequeen was out on bail in a case involving sexual assault allegations and unpaid child support, court records show.
In March, Pequeen, allegedly sexually assaulted a woman in Lakeland, Florida while high on methamphetamine. He was charged with sexual battery and and sexual violence. Pequeen was later taken into custody in April on an active warrant but was later released on his own recognizance, according to jail records.
Pequeen has several felony convictions in Florida, dating back more than a decade, additional legal filings show.
In 2017, Pequeen was found guilty of slicing open another man’s foot with a machete, according to separate court documents obtained by Oxygen.com.
In 2019, he was charged with trespassing after he was caught trying to kick in windshields of locomotives in a train yard, according to an arrest affidavit obtained by Oxygen.com. He later pleaded no contest.
The 33-year-old is being held without bond at a Polk County detention center, jail records show. He made his first appearance on Monday but hasn’t yet entered a plea. Pequeen’s arraignment is scheduled for Dec. 16, additional court documents show.
Julia J. Williamson, Pequeen’s public defender, didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment on Tuesday.
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