Jacksonville men charged in Mandarin murder

Police say the killing appears to have resulted from a botched armed robbery

Andrew Rauco and Lavonta Burrell are charged in the shooting death of 34-year-old Elias Alhirsh, according to police.
Andrew Rauco and Lavonta Burrell are charged in the shooting death of 34-year-old Elias Alhirsh, according to police. (Copyright 2021 by WJXT News4Jax - All rights reserved.)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Two men face murder charges in the shooting death of a Jacksonville man whose killing was the result of an attempted robbery gone wrong, according to court records obtained by News4Jax.

Andrew Rauco, 21, and Lavonta Burrell, 29, are suspects in the murder of 34-year-old Elias Alhirsh, who was gunned down in February 2020 at a Mandarin condominium complex after visiting an acquaintance, according to the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office.

Rauco is being held without bond at the Duval County jail following his arrest April 19 on second-degree murder and armed robbery charges. Court records show Burrell, who’s been in custody since December, has pleaded not guilty to the same charges.

Alhirsh was found dead of multiple gunshot wounds by police responding to a shooting call about 11:30 p.m. Feb. 26, 2020, at the Sugar Mill Apartments on Crown Point Road, the Sheriff’s Office said.

His body was found lying on the pavement next to a sport-utility vehicle that was running when police arrived. Police believe Alhirsh had rented the SUV, which looked like someone had rifled through it.

Surveillance video collected from the scene captured the moments leading up to the shooting.

The footage shows Alhirsh walk up to the SUV and get inside before two men holding flashlights run up behind him, according to an arrest warrant. One of the men can then be seen opening the driver’s door and a struggle ensues. Then the video shows the victim being shot multiple times.

A cell phone, a Ziploc bag of marijuana and dry cigarette butts were recovered near the shooting scene. But jewelry, including a watch and bracelet, that Alhirsh was known to wear were nowhere to be found.

The butts were sent off to a state lab for DNA testing, which resulted in a match for Burrell, according to the warrant. Based on a partial download of the phone, investigators determined the device belonged to Rauco, who was the subject of an anonymous tip about the murder.

Multiple witnesses implicated Rauco in the killing, according to the warrant, including one who said that he “panicked” and shot Alhirsh after getting kicked in the face.

Another told police they had overheard Rauco and another man concocting a plan to rob the victim for his money and jewelry. The same witness recalled hearing Rauco acknowledge the shooting afterward and explain how he dismantled the gun and ditched the pieces in multiple ponds.

Rauco denied any knowledge about the case or the victim during an interview after an unrelated arrest.

Court records show both men have arraignment hearings set for May 12.