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Department of Justice

U.S. Attorney's Office
Middle District of Florida
Roger B. Handberg , United States Attorney
For Immediate Release
Monday, June 27, 2022

Three Men Convicted of St. Petersburg Double Murder on Martin Luther King, Jr. Observance Day

Tampa, Florida – United States Attorney Roger B. Handberg announces that a federal jury has found Kermon Williams, a/k/a “The General” (42, St. Petersburg), James Higgs, Jr., a/k/a “Hammer” (40, St. Petersburg), and Jhaphre Higgs, a/k/a “Pre” (35, St. Petersburg) guilty of the murders of Roger Lee Ford, Jr. and Tywan Jeremiah Armstrong, which occurred in St. Petersburg on January 21, 2019, on Martin Luther King, Jr. Observance Day. Each faces a minimum mandatory penalty of 20 years, and up to life, in federal prison. Sentencing is scheduled for September 27, 2022, before the Honorable Charlene E. Honeywell.

According to testimony and evidence presented at trial, Williams asked Jhaphre and James Higgs, Jr. to kill Armstrong, who Williams saw as a threat to his drug business. Williams paid Jhaphre and James Higgs, Jr. with cash and drugs and gave them an AR-15 rifle to murder Armstrong. Shortly after they were asked to murder the victim, Jhaphre and James Higgs, Jr. shot and attempted to kill Armstrong with an AR-15 on September 22, 2018, on a street in St. Petersburg, but Armstrong survived. Testimony established that after this shooting, Williams told people that Armstrong would have died if the gun hadn’t jammed. Williams then directed Jhaphre and James Higgs, Jr. to make the murder as public as possible to send a message on the street.

On January 21, 2019, on Martin Luther King, Jr. Observance Day, Jhaphre and James Higgs, Jr. shot and killed Tywan Armstrong in his car, also killing passenger Roger Ford, and injuring a third passenger victim with an AR-15 rifle and a .40 caliber pistol. As directed by Williams, the shooting took place in front of a large crowd of people gathered at a St. Petersburg gas station. Testimony from the medical examiner at trial established that Armstrong was shot 28 times and Ford was shot 11 times. Despite heroic efforts on the part of officers from the St. Petersburg Police Department and members of St. Petersburg Fire Rescue, both victims died from their injuries. Forensic specialists from the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office processed the crime scene and recovered multiple shell casings used in the murders.

The jury also convicted Williams, Jhaphre Higgs, and James Higgs, Jr. of conspiracy to commit murder for hire, drug conspiracy, and using a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime causing the death of Roger Ford and Tywan Armstrong. Jhaphre and James Higgs, Jr. were also convicted of being felons in possession of ammunition.

This case was investigated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the St. Petersburg Police Department and was investigated and prosecuted by former Assistant United States Attorney Natalie Hirt Adams. The trial was conducted by Assistant United States Attorneys Craig R. Gestring and Charlie D. Connally.

This case was prosecuted as part of the joint federal, state, and local Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN) Program, the centerpiece of the Department of Justice’s violent crime reduction efforts. PSN is an evidence-based program proven to be effective at reducing violent crime. Through PSN, a broad spectrum of stakeholders work together to identify the most pressing violent crime problems in the community and develop comprehensive solutions to address them. As part of this strategy, PSN focuses enforcement efforts on the most violent offenders and partners with locally based prevention and reentry programs for lasting reductions in crime

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