Saturday, February 24, 2018
Public safety

Pregnant woman was shot by boyfriend, Tampa police say

TAMPA — Brianna Anderson was working through life's struggles, striving for her 3-year-old son and the girl growing in her belly.

She got her diploma from Gary Adult High School. She juggled jobs. She pushed friends to strive for great careers and planned to go to Hillsborough Community College after her daughter's birth.

Anderson won't get the chance. She was shot by Jamar Silas, police say, the father of her children, about 4 p.m. Wednesday.

He did it in front of their 3-year-old son, Tyler, according to Anderson's brother. The little boy understands enough. On Thursday, people heard him say, "My mommy was shot."

A neighbor heard the single gunshot. It was especially strange, the neighbor later said, because it wasn't preceded by the arguing she often heard.

Police say Anderson, 22, was hit once in the head. Her heart stopped on the way to the hospital, but medical workers were able to revive her and deliver the baby by caesarean section.

The girl, who was due this month, is doing well, authorities say. But by midnight, police announced Anderson had died. After she heard the news, Anderson's friend Brittany Theodore went to the hospital to see the baby.

"She was so feisty," Theodore said about the child. "She was moving and trying to pull all the cords. She was responding really good."

All day Thursday, Anderson's family gathered at an east Tampa apartment, grieving one life lost and working on custody issues regarding the baby.

Her name hasn't been determined, but it will likely be Joanna.

She will have a Minnie Mouse bed set, bought by her excited mother weeks earlier. It cost $200 and Anderson splurged, said her brother Antonio Brookins, 29. The young mother was thrilled she would soon have a girl to raise with her son, just as she had been raised with an older brother.

Her family is thankful the baby survived. She and Tyler will mostly stay with Anderson's mother, Brookins said.

"Hopefully, the girl can be raised up like her," he said.

'Hardworking mom'

Anderson's slaying is the latest in a recent spate of domestic violence-related deaths in the Tampa Bay area. On Sunday, a Largo man strangled his wife, authorities say. In September, a Hernando man was charged with killing his girlfriend and her daughter. And since August, two Hillsborough women have been cleared after they shot and killed their abusers.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and on Thursday night, the Pasco County Sheriff's Office and Salvation Army hosted a vigil at the sheriff's administration building. Several survivors spoke, and the group honored the lives lost this year.

Meanwhile, Anderson's friends talked about their friend — a woman who never wanted her loved ones to settle. She was constantly pushing them to do more, be better, go further. After her death, her friends are determined to honor her by finishing the goals they set together.

"She was always motivating me to go back and get my degree," said Delicia Forte, 21, who had been friends with Anderson since middle school. "I told her I start Monday for my GED, and she said, 'That's great, just make sure you continue with it. Just do it.' I have to finish now, because that's what she wanted me to do."

Theodore met Anderson when they were working together at Adventure Island last year. Theodore would go on to become a medical assistant, but Anderson encouraged her to strive to become a doctor.

"Don't stop at a medical assistant — keep going, keep going until you're a doctor," Anderson would tell her. "You're worth more than that now."

Anderson attended Middleton and Armwood high schools before receiving her diploma from Gary Adult High School in 2010. She bounced around different jobs, working at Adventure Island, Walmart and other customer service jobs. She told Forte she was working with a friend to try to get hired at Capital One.

"She was a go-getter," Theodore said. "She had the grind. She wanted to get money to help support her kids."

Her son, Tyler, would follow her everywhere, Theodore said. He was a mama's boy who never strayed far from her shadow.

On Thursday, the young boy was surrounded by more than two dozen friends and family members. Anderson's brother, Brookins, called his sister a "hardworking mom." She was determined to save money to support her second child, he said.

Anderson's friends said the young woman's family was very supportive, helping watch Tyler while Anderson was at work and picking him up from day care. Anderson, meanwhile, was the life of the party. She was a bit of an oddball in middle school, Forte said — so skinny and tiny but loudmouthed and the center of attention.

"If you were bored, you called Brianna up," Theodore said. "She always had something to say or would make you laugh. She was really energetic."

Signs of jealousy

On Wednesday, after a three-hour search, police arrested Silas. He was caught after a brief pursuit that ended when police ran his car off the road near Selma and Mayfield avenues in Tampa. He was booked on a charge of being a felon in possession of a firearm. Additional charges are pending.

Anderson's friend Theodore said she met Silas twice.

"I heard other people say, 'He's crazy, he's crazy,' but I had never seen it," she said. "I knew he'd play-fight with her, but I never took it like he was really abusing her. She never said anything about it."

Friends said Anderson was dating a 23-year-old man named Randy Ashley, whom Anderson first developed a crush on back in ninth grade. The two were on-and-off for years, but started to get serious in 2008, Forte said.

Ashley went to prison in 2011 on aggravated assault and aggravated battery charges, but Anderson visited him. She posted pictures on Facebook of their time together. The captions often stated "#FreeRandy."

"She was in love with him, and he was in love with her," Forte said.

Silas, on the other hand, was always starting a fight, Forte said. Anderson's brother said Silas had anger issues.

"He was kind of jealous," Forte said. "She'd visit Randy in prison all the time, but she only went to see Jamar once."

Brookins thinks Silas' jealousy spurred the shooting. Anderson didn't want to be with him, and his rage boiled over, the brother said.

Though Anderson's family never heard about any previous abuse, they still hope others can take heed from her unexpected death.

"If anyone is in an abusive relationship, we pray they learn from Brianna," Brookins said. "Don't be the next victim."

Times news researchers John Martin and Carolyn Edds contributed to this report. Jessica Vander Velde can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3433.

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