Victim sucker punched during home invasion

Posted at 5:03 PM, Jan 21, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-21 17:41:53-05

The 24-year-old was in his home when a man who lives in the neighborhood said he needed a phone for an emergency. When the victim opened the door, he was punched in the jaw.

Family members of the victim asked ABC Action News not to identify him for fear of retaliation. His father, who only wanted us to name him as Howard, said his son has a lengthy recovery ahead.

“He has a broken jaw. I believe it is shattered on both sides,” Howard said. He lost some of his molars and (has) a little bit of face lacerations.”

St. Petersburg police believe that the victim was targeted by someone who lives in the neighborhood. They think the suspect learned the victim was a commercial fisherman, and thought the victim might have a lot of cash after fishing charters.

“He was ambushed,” St. Petersburg police representative Yolanda Fernandez said.

The victim told ABC Action News he refused to open his front door until Bryan Vetter, one of the men arrested, identified himself saying he needed help. The victim recognized Vetter’s name and opened the door to help his neighbor. That’s when the victim was immediately punched by the suspect -- who is still on the run.

Vetter has a lengthy criminal history that includes armed robbery, burglary and assault.

Howard wants to know why such a violent criminal wasn’t locked up in the first place.

“He has a rap sheet as long as your arm,” Howard said. “There is something in the system that is failing, and everybody trying to do right and play by the rules are suffering for it.”

His son’s jaw is wired shut. It was shattered in multiple places. The hit also knocked out some of his teeth. The victim now has hospital bills and is unable to get back out on a fishing boat for at least six weeks.  

His father can’t believe all of this happened to his son over what would probably be just a few hundred dollars for the thief.  

“Now, he's left with all these bills and can't go to work, and you know, he is just a young guy trying to make it... And these set backs are tough,” Howard said. “And, he came in early on this trip 'cause he didn't make any money."

St. Petersburg police released this information on the suspect:  

  • White male, 19-20 years old
  • Muscular build 
  • 6'2" tall,180 pounds
  • Short black hair, no facial hair
  • White tank top and pants