What started fights at a McDonald's across from a Tampa school isn't clear. No gunman has been found.
By REBECCA CATALANELLO, BRADY DENNIS, SAUNDRA AMRHEIN and JUSTIN GEORGE
Published November 18, 2005
[Times photo: Chris Zuppa]
Officials with the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office wait at the scene of a brawl that left one teen dead on Thursday. Three others were injured.
Dalshon Walton, 17, was killed Thursday. The King High senior, nicknamed Elmo, liked playing basketball.
Alexander McKinnie, 19, was injured in the shooting at the parking lot across from King High School.
Antonio Harris, 16, also was injured. His mother, Anntoinette Archer, said a bullet remained lodged in his left arm.
TAMPA - Not long after the final bell rang Thursday at King High School, a crowd began to gather in the McDonald's parking lot across the street. One fight broke out, then another, and another. Fists flew, and then bullets.
In a flash, four young men had been shot. One of them, 17-year-old Dalshon Walton, a senior at King, died.
"We were trying to wake him up," said Alejo Vickers, 19, who rushed to his dying friend's side and cradled his head in his arms. "I don't even know why they were fighting. All this shouldn't have gone down. It was petty. It was stupid."
The deadly brawl, which involved students and nonstudents, marked what appears to have been an especially violent week at King. Numerous students said Thursday that fights had broken out at school all week long, including several the day of the shooting.
School officials quickly dismissed any correlation.
"Apparently they are completely unrelated," said school district spokesman Steve Hegarty, though Hillsborough Sheriff David Gee didn't seem so sure.
Late Thursday evening, deputies continued to search for the shooter, who fled the scene. Gee said investigators had received dozens of leads in the case. But with rumors flying and eyewitnesses providing differing accounts of what happened, the trick was sorting fact from fiction.
"We're getting so many stories right now," Gee said. "Hopefully, we can get to the bottom of this. We'll know before it's all said and done. I guarantee you that."
Some students insisted the fight was gang-related, but Gee declined to speculate on that claim.
"It's not so much gangs. It's your 'hood," said Vickers.
The shooting that killed Walton sent three other teenagers to local hospitals. Officials identified the wounded as 16-year-old Antonio Harris, who had been a student at King but previously withdrew; 15-year-old Damian Lamar Bowie, a ninth-grader at King; and 19-year-old Alexander McKinnie, who isn't a student.
Each was treated and released Thursday evening.
Harris left St. Joseph's Hospital wearing a patient's gown, his left arm tucked inside in a white sling. He did not speak to reporters, but his mother, Anntoinette Archer, said a bullet remained lodged in his left arm.
"I thank God my child's alive, and I hope whoever did this is caught," she said.
Details of how the shooting unfolded remained vague amid the varying stories and hazy memories of those who were there. But this much is clear: A fist fight, or several, erupted among the dozens of teenagers who had gathered at the popular after-school hangout.
Within seconds, one boy pulled a gun and fired multiple shots into the crowd, scattering the teenagers in all directions.
However it began, the aftermath brought both confusion and grief.
Girls on the nearby high school campus hugged each other and doubled over crying, fearing that they had lost a friend, and maybe several. One young man dressed in camouflage sat on the school steps with his head in his hands, his eyes filled with tears.
"That was my cousin, man," is all he would say, as police lights flashed in the distance and television reporters readied for their live shots.
Those who knew Walton remembered him as a neighborhood boy who carried a Tweety Bird bookbag. His friends called him Elmo, probably because he wore his hair long and in twists and kind of favored the Sesame Street character, one friend said. He played basketball regularly in the park, and just Wednesday he was there, shooting hoops and laughing.
He also had a girlfriend, 15-year-old Lynell Allen, and he would go to her house and watch television while she babysat. When she found out that he had died, she collapsed in grief outside the hospital and fell into her grandmother's arms.
Richard Lynch showed up at the scene of the shooting after hearing about it on the news. In July, his son Chad Lynch, 17, died of a gunshot wound only a few blocks away, at N 50th Street and E Sligh Avenue. For Walton's family he extended his sympathy, his eyes tearing as he thought of his own pain: "Hang in there," he said. "It's tough." No one has been charged in Chad Lynch's shooting.
The fear of retaliation and more fights to come hung in the air as dusk fell Thursday.
Isaiah Harris, a King High School graduate now attending college in South Carolina, was home for the Thanksgiving holiday and was at the scene. He is not related to Antonio Harris.
"It ain't going to stop," he said, echoing the sentiment among many students. "It's just going to keep going because once one person gets shot, another person gets shot. It just keeps going on and on."
Both school and law enforcement officials promised a heavy security presence at the school today, in case of further trouble. The school district also planned to have a crisis team on hand.
"This can be traumatic," Hegarty said.
Standing outside school Thursday, waiting for his ride home, 15-year-old Budd McQueen looked toward the crime scene and thought about what today would bring inside the walls of King High School.
"I'm sure a lot of people will be crying," he said.
Times researcher Cathy Wos and staff writer Shannon Colavecchio-Van Sickler contributed to this report.