TAMPA — Byron Patty Jr. was a lifeline for his grandparents — a connection to the son who was shot and killed in a robbery when Byron was just a baby.
When he died Saturday morning from a gunshot wound to the head, his grandfather struggled with the reason.
"I just don't understand how this could happen twice — to bury your son and your grandson. They are supposed to bury you," said Jesse Patty, 58, the victim's grandfather.
Patty Jr., 17, a rising senior at Middleton High, was playing dice Thursday night with 18-year-old Alonzo Jones outside a Belmont Heights home when a masked gunman approached and demanded money. The gunman shot Jones, and the bullet went through him and struck Patty in the back of the head, said his grandmother, Michelle Patty.
He died at Tampa General Hospital Saturday morning after spending Friday on life support. His grandfather said his organs were donated.
It was too eerie for the Patty family.
In 1994, Byron Patty Sr., then 21, was playing cards in a South Tampa motel room with friends when a gunman entered and Patty was shot twice in the chest during a struggle. He was a standout baseball player at Hills-borough Community College who had just had a tryout with the Los Angeles Angels and was looking forward to one with the Baltimore Orioles.
Byron Patty Jr. was into sports as a child, but had gotten arrested several times since 2004.
"He wasn't one of those kids who didn't have. He got a monthly check from a trust and if he ever needed anything he could always come to us," his grandfather explained.
But growing up in his Tampa neighborhood may have led him down the wrong path for a while, he said.
Jesse Patty said he'd seen a change in his grandson in the past year. "The first sign was he had been telling us how much he loved us in the past year," Jesse Patty said. "He was pouring out a lot of love."
Patty Jr. had also latched onto his father's hobby of cutting hair and told his grandfather he wanted to make it career.
"We told him that if he wanted, after high school we would pay for his education," Jesse Patty said.
Michelle Patty said her grandson had been practicing becoming a barber by offering to cut neighbors' hair. His father used to cut hair for his friends.
"I guess he got it from his dad because I never wanted to be a barber," Jesse Patty said.
Tampa police said they arrested Reginald Jenkins, 17, running away from the scene.
Jesse Patty said he was told the teen was still carrying the gun.
Jenkins had racked up more than 30 arrests before Thursday night. The charges of attempted robbery with a firearm and a attempted murder in the first degree are expected to be upgraded in light of Patty Jr.'s death.
"I know he (Jenkins) has to feel terrible," Jesse Patty said. "People were telling us that they were close — you wouldn't see one without the other."