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Police arrest Tampa man in 2015 slaying of 18-year-old Lyfe Coleman

TAMPA — In a year of alarming violence, 18-year-old Lyfe Coleman was the first to die.

His murder on Jan. 5, 2015, became emblematic of the issues that defined crime and policing in Tampa last year. There was the so-called no-snitch culture. There were gangs. There were guns on the streets.

There was Coleman's father, Life Malcolm, a spoken-word poet who expressed tepid trust in the policing of crimes against African-Americans.

On Wednesday, finally, there was an arrest.

Reginald Bowman, 21, an acquaintance of Coleman's, now is accused of his murder. Police say it happened after Bowman offered to sell the teen a gun.

Malcolm welcomed news of the arrest but said the pain lingers. "Not much has changed for myself and my family," he said. "We're in the same condition we've been in for the last one year, 10 months, 25 days, and 13 hours."

An arrest report released Thursday details the efforts of investigators.

Steps from where Coleman fell, detectives found a visor bearing the logo for the Jimmy John's food chain. They sent it for DNA testing.

It came back with a match to Bowman, whose DNA was in a state database from a previous battery arrest, police said. Bowman worked as a delivery man for Jimmy John's on Seventh Avenue in Ybor City.

When detectives questioned him, Bowman said he knew Coleman but had not seen him in more than two years, according to the arrest report. Police later obtained his cell phone records, which showed he made 11 phone calls in a 19-minute period before the shooting. Cell data also showed the phone signal bouncing off a tower down the street from Coleman's home.

Police obtained records of Facebook messages the two had exchanged in the days before the murder. Bowman agreed to sell Coleman a .380-caliber pistol or a 9mm for $150, the report said. A witness later said Bowman told him he planned to rob Coleman during the sale.

Embedded in Bowman's message history were GPS coordinates that tracked his movements. At 12:15 a.m. on Jan. 5, the data showed the phone at 3100 N Jefferson St., a few hundred feet south of Coleman's home. The 911 call came in a 12:20 a.m.

Coleman had shouted his sister's name before the gunfire, police learned. Money was scattered at the scene, and investigators found a .380-caliber bullet casing.

Bowman was arrested Wednesday at work in Ybor City. Bail was set at $251,000.

Coleman's mother, Sonia Coleman, released a statement through the Tampa Police Department.

"Lyfe was my first-born son and I miss him immensely,'' she wrote. "I want to thank the community for all their support. I want to thank Detective Neal Smith for his diligence in pursuing the case. I want to thank my work family for their support. And I want to thank his father; I know he was very diligent in keeping up with the case."

Malcolm watched Bowman's court appearance Thursday. Bowman was one of the people he suspected. He knew little about their relationship, except that they attended Middleton High School together, he said.

Even as they investigated his son's death, Malcolm wasn't shy about criticizing the police. But he also kept in touch.

More than once, the arrest report notes, he relayed what he had heard through rumors about who had shot his son. That information eventually helped lead detectives to Bowman.

Malcolm said he appreciated the police keeping him informed. He also said he wants people to remember all that was lost.

"This was a young man who was working, whose mother loved him, whose father cherished him," he said. "It is important that people understand he was an incredible guy."

On the 5th of each month since his son was killed, Malcolm has organized a vigil at the site of the shooting, a place he has dubbed "Young Lyfe Lane."

This month, he said, he will do the same.

Contact Dan Sullivan at dsullivan@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3386. Follow @TimesDan.

Police arrest Tampa man in 2015 slaying of 18-year-old Lyfe Coleman 12/01/16 [Last modified: Thursday, December 1, 2016 8:56pm]
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