Family of Plant City road rage victim makes plea to public as police search for shooting suspect

Family members of a woman killed in a road rage incident last week in Plant City are asking for anyone's help in finding the suspect as they prepare to hold her funeral this week.

"She lit up the room when she walked in. She got the respect, the love, the support from family, friends, and coworkers," said Michael Arrieta, the victim's brother, during a Wednesday press conference.

Elly Arrieta and her boyfriend were heading home to Lakeland after celebrating their anniversary in Anna Maria Island when both were shot in Interstate 4. 

Courtesy: Plant City Police Department. 

During a Wednesday press conference, Plant City Police Chief James Bradford said investigators are searching for a 2009-2015 silver or gray Toyota Prius or a similar vehicle with non-tinted windows. It's also equipped with after-market high-intensity headlights, which give a blue hue. It also had a temporary paper license plate. The driver appeared to be a Black male.

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Investigators said the driver was traveling recklessly behind them around 9:15 p.m. on April 18. When the car got closer, a man opened fire, striking both of them. Her boyfriend, Juan Ladson, was driving and took exit 22. They went to a nearby Plant City fire station where he dialed 911. 

Elly died. Her boyfriend was taken to a hospital in critical condition. It's still unclear what may have led up to the shooting.

"I pray for him," Michael said Wednesday, "and he’s so lucky to be here, and he has so much more to go. He’s a brother to me. He’s an honorary Arrieta."

He wore a t-shirt with the word, "Humanity," saying his wardrobe decision was intentional.

The scene of the road rage shooting

The scene of the road rage shooting (FDOT)

"Life is beautiful and precious, the energy we give to everyone is infectious," he stated. "This shirt is not a mistake. Humanity is not lost. There are way more good people than there are bad people. We are in the same village. We all are going to rise, and we all will heal. And this person won’t get away with it. I believe it. I have faith in it."

Police have since received information about a black Dodge Charger who may have had "contact" with the suspect vehicle prior to the shooting.

"The Plant City Police Department is requesting the driver of the Dodge Charger to come forward," Chief Bradford. "Somebody knows something.

Anyone with information is asked to call Sergeant Baker at (813) 707-2271 or Detective Cowart at (813) 707-2270. CrimeStoppers is also offering a reward of up to $5,000. Anonymous tips can be submitted by calling 1-800-873-8477.