TAMPA — Willie Cherry III intervened early Tuesday as his younger brother, Adrian, was being robbed at gunpoint outside a sandwich shop.
The move cost him his life, police said.
Cherry, 21, of 8520 N Semmes St. in Tampa was shot in the chest about 3:30 a.m. and died in the parking lot behind Salem's Gyros and Subs on E Hillsborough Avenue.
It was an all too familiar scene for his friends and family. Cherry's father, Willie Cherry Jr., was shot to death in 1996. A jury convicted Joseph Jones, then 21, who is serving life in prison.
On Tuesday morning, detectives searched the parking lot of the late-night restaurant, dusting for fingerprints on the hoods of vehicles.
Police described the shooter as a 23-year-old black male with a "slinky" build, about 5 foot 8 and 190 pounds. He was wearing a white T-shirt with blue jeans and was armed with a chrome-colored .380 caliber pistol, police said. He left with three other men in a dark red, quad-cab Dodge Ram pickup.
One of the passengers, a black male in his 20s, about 5 foot 8, had shoulder-length dreadlocks, wore all black and was armed with an Uzi.
Etrinda Parker, who stood at the scene, said Cherry was her nephew. He was with his cousins and brother when the group went to the restaurant at 4004 E Hillsborough Ave. for some late-night food.
Parker said the group was approached in the parking lot and robbed.
Cherry's grandfather, 63-year-old Willie Cherry, said his grandson happened upon a violent scene: Adrian Cherry, 17, was being robbed, a gun pointed at his head, the grandfather said.
Cherry told the attacker to "cool it," the elder Cherry said. "Then the guy just turned and shot him."
The grandfather choked up talking to reporters. He wiped his eyes and said "they took his life, and I don't know why."
Adrian Cherry sat on his mother's stoop that afternoon, his head buried in his arms. A senior at Middleton High School, he told a reporter only that he had scholarships to leave Tampa for college.
Asked about his brother's death, Cherry looked up and said in a voice almost too quiet to hear: "I don't feel like talking about it."
Times researcher Will Short Gorham contributed to this report.