2 arrested for shooting death of Tampa nursing student driving on Grace Street

Tampa police have arrested two men in connection with the shooting death of Savannah Mathis, the bright, young nursing student at Hillsborough Community College whose life was cut short when bullets sprayed her car while driving along Grace Street December 1.

Savannah Mathis’ car crashed just two blocks from Julian B Lane Park, on Grace Street near Delaware Avenue. Tampa police have remained tight-lipped about what they believe happened before and after the crash, but it appeared the shooting caused her to lose control. 

Alfonso Evans and Vakarvery Scott were arrested and charged in connection with the shooting death of Savannah Mathis (TPD)

According to the arrest document for one of the suspects, Mathis and her passenger, who was injured but survived the ordeal, may have been fired upon before and after the crash.

The document says a witness reported hearing gunshots and came outside to see what was going on. The witness told officers, just as he walked outside, he saw Savannah’s car hit the wall just south of the intersection of Grace St. and Delaware Ave.

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The witness said he then spotted two men in the alleyway across the street from Savannah’s car. 

Right after the crash, one of the men fired six shots at the crashed vehicle. The witness told officers he saw the flash of the gun’s muzzle.

When police arrived, they saw a man walking out of the alleyway. That man, 29-year-old Alfonso Evans, was carrying a gun that was later determined to be the same kind of weapon used to shoot at Mathis’ car, according to the arrest document. Evans was arrested that night and charged with throwing a deadly missile into a vehicle. He was released on bond a short time later.

At the time, Tampa police did not publicly announce Evans’ arrest in connection with the shooting.

Nearly 20 days later, police announced the arrest of another man, 20-year-old Vakarvery Scott, in connection with Savannah’s death. Scott has been charged with shooting into a vehicle, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, and second-degree murder with a firearm.

TPD said the arrests were made with the help of US Marshals and additional charges were pending. The investigation was ongoing. Anyone who would like to report a tip and remain anonymous may call CrimeStoppers at 1-800 873-TIPS.

Savannah's life and legacy

Savannah hung to life for two days after she and her passenger were hit by the gunfire. 

Savannah’s family made the impossible decision to take her off life support days after the shooting. The 21-year-old was surrounded by her mother, LaMaria Smith, as well as friends and family members. 

LaMaria Smith and her daughter, Savannah Mathis (family photo)

After learning two men were arrested for her daughter's killing, Smith said she wasn't sure how to feel.

"I have mixed emotions, and the reason I say that is, at the end of the day, a mother lost her child, as well as I lost mine," Smith told FOX 13 News. "The hardest thing about it, I wanted to be happy, but at the end of the day, it's not going to bring my daughter back."

Smith shared photos of Savannah’s final moments in hopes of showing the aftermath of gun violence.

"For somebody to leave that image in my mind, that's what I have, the last visual of this beautiful person. I want you to see what I had to look at in that hospital," Smith told FOX 13 News.

Savannah's mother provided photos taken inside TGH as family said goodbye

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At the family business, BJ's Alabama BBQ, a shrine to Savannah reveals the impact she had on her community. 

Pictures show the aspiring nurse, who graduated from Plant High School in 2018 with a 5.0 GPA, getting along with everyone; law enforcement, firefighters, and her co-workers -- who were all considered family.

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Family photos show Savannah with Tampa first responders

"When people come in here, they come for the barbecue, but a lot of the times, they came for the conversations with Savannah," Smith said. "Just for a kid to want to keep the legacy going in Tampa that my grandfather worked so hard for, 53 years, it speaks volumes."

Her mother longed for the days when Savannah worked behind the counter. 

"For people to come in and not see her, it is going to dampen this whole restaurant. It is not going to be the same. It will never be the same," Smith said.

Savannah Mathis was laid to rest on Saturday during a funeral complete with a procession led by a horse-drawn carriage. Her mother said that was the best way to honor her life.

"Savannah baby I know you're in heaven and I hope that your soul rests in peace it's not going to bring total closure to your mom because I wish you were here sharing Christmas with me, but justice has been served and this kid is off the street," Smith said.

A fundraiser to support her family has been set up online at https://www.gofundme.com/f/wjnt6-justiceforsavannah.