ATF joins TPD in plea for leads in murders
TAMPA (FOX 13) - The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives announced Thursday it would offer major rewards for information in four unsolved Tampa murder cases.
ATF Special Agent in Charge Regina Lombardo was joined by Tampa Police Chief Eric Ward to make the announcement, along with plea for information from the community.
"I ask you to give us a chance. Just give us a chance to earn our trust to come forward with any information," Lombardo said.
In January, Lyfe Coleman, 18, was shot and killed outside a home on North Jefferson Street.
A little more than two months later, Jamylin Turner, 16, was shot and killed while playing basketball in Robles Park.
On May 31, Edward "E.J." Harris, 14, was shot and killed near Woodland Terrace Park.
Then less than a month later, on June 27, Sharon Watkins, a 58-year-old mother and grandmother, was hit by a bullet that came through her window as she lay in bed.
Lombardo said there is at least one common threat to all the cases that makes them difficult to investigate.
"Fear. Fear of being a snitch. Fear of coming forward," she said.
"Hopefully somebody that's listening to this message will come out and step forward and give us the information we need to help solve these crimes," added Chief Ward.
Members of ATF and TPD were joined by the families of Watkins and Harris.
"It's a God thing that keeps me going every day," said Edward Harris, E.J.'s father, who lives about a block away from the murder scene. "Every day, I walk out my door, I look, and I realize I heard those shots. I heard the car speed off and I know that those people are still out there."
Harris and Watkins' daughter, Showanda Darns, discussed with FOX 13 how fear has gripped them and their communities.
"I understand that they're afraid. I live with the same fear every day," Harris said. "People have no idea the terror that they struck in the children that play out here in this park every day."
"I'm so fearful with that person still being out there," added Darns. "I feel like, who else will they target? Who else will they do this to?"
Crime Stoppers is offering additional $3,000 rewards in each case. Clear Channel Outdoor is also donating space on the company's digital billboards to allow authorities to remind the communities about these cases.
Harris and Darns are hoping it all helps.
"Violence needs to stop. It's not okay. Whoever knows something, say something," Darns begged.
"[Detectives] need our help. They can't do it alone," Harris added.