Florida Keys News
Tuesday, September 17, 2013
Man stabbed at Higgs Beach

A man allegedly using racial slurs at Higgs Beach was airlifted to Miami Friday night after he was stabbed in the stomach by another homeless man, according to Key West police.

Mark James Barnes, 52, was airlifted to Ryder Trauma Center after nearby restaurant employees heard him pleading for help at 8:35 p.m. in the parking lot, according to multiple police incident reports and arrest affidavits released Monday.

A message left with the hospital seeking Barnes' condition on Monday was not returned as of press time.

Arriving police set up a perimeter Friday night and quickly located suspect Roosevelt Washington, 53, walking on Atlantic Boulevard with blood on his white T-shirt.

Detectives charged Washington with attempted murder, but the case was still being reviewed by prosecutors on Monday.

"The State Attorney's Office will make a determination as to what level attempted murder, if any, we would charge after we've had a chance to review the reports and speak to the victim and witnesses," said Assistant State Attorney Val Winter, adding that the case has yet to be assigned to a prosecutor.

What level crime refers to first-, second- or third-degree felonies. The maximum sentence for a first-degree felony is 30 years in prison.

Washington reportedly told police he went to a pavilion at Higgs Beach when Barnes began cursing at him and using racial slurs. Washington is black and Barnes is white. The two have had altercations in the past, Washington told police.

Washington and at least one other witness said Barnes struck Washington first, reports say. Washington admitted fighting back and hitting Barnes in the ensuing fight, but denied stabbing him, reports say.

The fight started at the pavilion after another man seperated the two, but resumed near the bathrooms, reports say.

Washington said "he felt Barnes 'got the best of him,'" reports say.

"If I stabbed someone why would I stay here?" Washington told police, adding that the blood on his shirt came from struggling with Barnes during the fight, not from a stab wound.

Barnes, however, identified Washington as the stabber when police showed him a cell phone picture of Washington, reports say.

Salute on the Beach restaurant employees beard Barnes yelling for help from the parking lot near the kitchen and called police, said restaurant owner Richard Hatch.

Hatch was not there when the incident occurred, he said Monday.

Barnes was first taken to Lower Keys Medical Center before he was airlifted to Miami.

Washington remained at Monroe County Detention Center on Stock Island Monday in lieu of $75,000 bail, according to jail records.

alinhardt@keysnews.com

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