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Friends and family grieve for two people gunned down at southeast Hillsborough party

RIVERVIEW — Iesha D. Washington wanted her brother to get into the car. He was fighting, she had seen a gun and she was worried about him. But, according to her family, as she pleaded with him to leave, with friends watching from a waiting car, she was shot and killed.

The party at a rented hall along an industrial stretch of U.S. 41 west of Progress Village late Friday night had escalated out of control. Between 300 and 400 teenagers and young adults crowded the small building and the property surrounding it, the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office said.

A fight broke out at about 12:30 a.m. and shots were fired. When deputies arrived, more than 100 people were running through the street, sheriff's officials said.

"It was mass chaos," said sheriff's spokesman Larry McKinnon.

Deputies found Washington, 18, of Tampa dead at the scene. Craig A. Thompson, 22, of Tampa was also shot and died of his injuries at Tampa General Hospital, McKinnon said.

Washington was about to be a senior at Spoto High School. She was baptized last Sunday and wanted to give her life some direction. Until this summer, she had intended not to go to college, but that had changed, said her cousin, Wiley Kelly.

The brother she was trying to pull from the fight, Darrell Hernandez, said the shooting erupted after the DJ played a song that got everyone riled up. A fight broke out, and everyone moved to the parking lot.

"Dude pulls out a gun and starts shooting," he said. "They were shooting at the whole crowd, trying to get whoever they could."

He said his sister was in a car but got out to tell him to get inside it and was shot.

The crowd was made up of people mostly from the areas of Clair-Mel and Progress Village, McKinnon said.

Hernandez said a rivalry caused the attack.

"This is a fight between two neighborhoods that's been going on for a while," he said.

His sister, he said, was caught in the crossfire.

"She was innocent."

Washington's mom said she was the youngest daughter of six.

"They didn't have to kill my baby," said the mother, Vannetta Scott. "They didn't have to shoot her in the head and kill her."

She prayed that justice will come to the person who did it.

"My baby is not going to die in vain," she said.

The other victim, Thompson, had been looking toward his future lately, too, said Billy Graham, a mentor and former coach of his.

Graham, who works for Hillsborough County parks and recreation, had known Thompson since Thompson was about 8. The boy attended a program run by parks and recreation, he said.

Thompson stopped going to the program when he got older, but he stayed in touch.

About two weeks ago, Thompson returned to talk about his future: He wanted to play football.

"I told him the opportunity is there. If nothing else, you play a sport and get an education," Graham said.

The party took place at a building managed by the International Chemical Workers Union Local 439. The fire marshal's maximum capacity for the hall is 78, according to Edward Watson, chapter president.

He declined to disclose who had taken responsibility for the party Friday night.

No arrests have been made.

"We know there are a lot of people who know what happened. We ask them to come forward," McKinnon said.

Anyone who has information can contact the Sheriff's Office at (813) 247-8200.

Washington's family is asking the shooter to come forward, too.

"You took two innocent lives away," said Washington's aunt, Carin Scott. "Turn yourself in."

Times researcher Shirl Kennedy contributed to this report. Shelley Rossetter can be reached at srossetter@sptimes.com or (813) 661-2442.

Friends and family grieve for two people gunned down at southeast Hillsborough party 07/30/11 [Last modified: Sunday, July 31, 2011 12:44am]
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