TPD continues community policing effort amid teen shooting investigation

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A 14-year-old boy was shot in an East Tampa neighborhood, and police said they were searching for the suspected gunman.

The shooting happened before midnight Wednesday near 31st Street and Cayuga Street.

Tampa police said they found De'Nico Thomas lying on the ground.

He was taken to Tampa General Hospital and, as of Thursday morning, he was listed as critical condition.

"It's kind of hurt my heart because I have a 13-year-old. It's sad that it's the younger generation that's out here losing their lives. If they don't die, they're being severely injured," said Beth Champion, who lives in the Jackson Heights community, where the shooting happened. "I was just telling my 13-year-old the streets are playing for keeps. It's summertime, the kids don't have nothing to do."

Hours later and about a half-mile away, officers held a planned event designed to keep kids out of harm's way during the summer.

TPD and the Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation hosted a day camp called Badges and Baseball.

"Every time we can interact in a non-policing way with a community, it builds trust between us," said Officer David Hancock. "There's so many bad guys out with guns, again, shooting at teenagers on bicycles, all that stuff is crazy stuff. So as we build this trust, we build this partnership with them, it's all good for the community." 

Amid their effort to build relationships, officers continue to look for a suspect in Wednesday night's shooting. TPD says the suspect's vehicle was described as a white or light-colored sedan, possibly a Lexus.

Police said it pulled up near the area, a gun was fired toward the teenager, and then the car sped away.

Anyone with information is asked to call the Tampa Police Department at (813) 231-6130 or send an anonymous tip to Crime Stoppers of Tampa Bay at 1-800-873-8477.