Sheryl Peterson came to Treasure Island with her family for some rest and relaxation.
The picture-perfect view of the Gulf of Mexico was there but Peterson witnessed some disturbing images as crime scene technicians scoured a nearby room early Saturday morning.
Just before 5 a.m. deputies with the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office closed in on a 42-year-old convicted felon being sought on sexual battery charges.
They caught up with him in room 224 of the Trail's End Motel but unfortunately Gregory James Johns refused to come out and locked himself in the bathroom.
The commotion woke Peterson up.
"[I heard] a clamoring, a banging metal being bounced around," she recalled. "[Then] shouting and then suddenly a dozen shots were fired."
According to a Pinellas County Sheriff's Office report the suspect was shot by two deputies after he lunged at them armed with a knife.
Investigators issued a warrant for John's arrest on Friday. Detectives say his victim is an 11-year-old female, the daughter of his girlfriend.
Johns allegedly forced himself on the child at least three times in June.
Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri addressed the media a few hours after the shooting. He talked about the turn of events that led up to the incident at the hotel.
"This past Monday night the 11-year-old girl started complaining of feeling faint and stomach pains," Gualtieri said.
The child was rushed to the hospital by her mother and the suspect. Doctors told them the girl was pregnant. Johns appeared to be visibly upset after hearing the news and immediately left the hospital.
He did not return.
On Tuesday deputies say he held up a couple at Vinoy Park in St. Petersburg, leaving a piece of evidence behind.
"Found at the scene of that robbery was a note Johns had written to the 11 year old victim apologizing for the sexual battery," Gualtieri added.
Approximately one hour after that crime, the suspect allegedly tied up and gagged an elderly St. Petersburg woman in her home. That incident investigators say, lasted 12 hours.
Investigators worked feverishly to get Johns off the streets before he could commit any more crimes. They searched dozens of hotels before finally tracking him to Treasure Island early Saturday morning.
"It was a very intense search," Gualtieri said. "He was a bad guy who did some very, very bad things."
Johns was pronounced dead at the scene. The suspect was no stranger to law enforcement in Pinellas County with an arrest that goes back three decades.
He served six stints in state prison for a variety of crimes include weapons, drugs and grand theft charges.
The incident left Peterson and other hotel residents a bit scared.
"A little bit traumatized," she said. "But we're talking to them [our kids] about bad choices, bad men."
The two deputies involved in the shooting, Claudio Dimundo, 30, and Eric Turner, 34, have been placed on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of an investigation.
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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