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Family of Tampa shooting victim pleads for witnesses to step forward

TAMPA — A candle had burned near the door, red wax splattered and collected in a pool.

It was a grim reminder Tuesday of where 21-year-old Derek Anderson's blood lay a week ago after he was shot to death at his apartment building.

A memorial had sprung up with nine candles. "We miss you dawg," "Homies 4 Life" and "The good always die young" adorned the walls in green and blue marker.

"Our baby is in heaven," said Mary Watson, Anderson's grandmother. "My baby knew the Lord, so I'm not worried about that."

Police say Anderson was shot dead by a would-be robber, but the investigation has stalled.

Now the family is asking witnesses to step forward to help find his killer. Police detectives think someone saw something that can help.

"We need a witness to come forward," police Detective Mike Kirlangitis said while standing near the complex Tuesday. "Help us to help the family and solve the case."

• • •

Police said Anderson went to a friend's house May 18 to do laundry and watch a basketball game. He returned to the Kenneth Court Apartments, 5715 Steven Court, and was shot at 11:28 p.m.

Someone from the complex performed CPR, but Anderson was pronounced dead at Tampa General Hospital.

Police initially said he was shot while standing on the second floor near the apartment he shared with his mother, and ultimately where he died. But because of conflicting witness statements, police aren't sure where he was when he was shot.

On May 19, blood could be seen on parts of the stairs leading up to where he was found. A smaller pool of blood collected near the door of the apartment.

Kirlangitis and other detectives canvassed the apartment complex again Tuesday, looking for new leads. He declined to release any new information, fearing it would taint potential witnesses.

Previously, police said a group of men were involved in the shooting, then said it was one man dressed in white with a bandana covering his face. Kirlangitis wouldn't go into any new details Tuesday.

Although Anderson had a couple of misdemeanors on his record, he hadn't been arrested for any violent crimes.

Kirlangitis said the investigation has led to one conclusion: "This was a good kid."

• • •

Anderson was known as the "kid in the backpack" because he always carried one, family and authorities said. Detectives hadn't encountered anyone at the complex who had trouble with Anderson.

His family said he was quiet. He didn't like crowds. He had a 4-month-old son.

He had a job interview the day he was killed.

"I could understand this if he was a bad person," Watson, his grandmother, said of his killing. "But he wasn't."

Watson was surrounded by friends and family members as she sat in front of a condominium about 3 miles from where her grandson was shot. The family wanted to draw more attention to the investigation. Someone needs to come forward, they said. They need to tell police what they saw.

Clarence Jones, 21, a family friend, said too many problems are being addressed with guns.

"You're killing our own kind, our black brothers," he said. "If you have problems, take it to God. Not guns."

Watson said her family has already forgiven whoever shot Anderson. They have to, she said, because they are Christians.

"But may God have mercy on their souls," she said, "because God is going to deal with them. And they will get caught."

Andy Boyle can be reached at (813) 226-3386 or aboyle@sptimes.com.

To help

Anyone with information about who shot Derek Anderson can call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-873-8477. A $1,000 reward is available.

Family of Tampa shooting victim pleads for witnesses to step forward 05/25/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, May 26, 2010 7:15am]
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