TAMPA — For a year and a half the mystery has lingered, kept alive with street talk and rumors. Who gunned down 17-year-old Cedric Mills in his father's front yard?
The family of the murdered Jefferson High School football player continues to grieve, and to listen for answers.
One such whisper reached the ear of Cedric's father last week, and this led to a violent confrontation.
Police say Cedric's dad confronted and attacked 19-year-old Frederick Powell last week, after being told that the youth had been bragging that he's the one who killed the linebacker.
Detectives investigated Powell early in the case, said police spokeswoman Laura McElroy.
"He is not a person of interest," she said.
Now Cedric's father, Vidal Mills, 36, has been arrested and faces charges of false imprisonment and battery.
Mills' actions make it obvious the family needs justice, McElroy said.
"It's frustrating for the detectives. We believe people in the community know more about the case but haven't come forward," she said.
Cedric was a strong athlete who dreamed of playing professional football, like his father, who played arena football for the Tampa Bay Storm.
On April 25, 2007, a gunman shot Cedric in front of his father's house, then sped away with a getaway driver — both wearing bandannas — in a newer model silver Chrysler Sebring.
Tampa police say that on Oct. 15, Vidal Mills' daughter, while working at a McDonald's at 1905 N Dale Mabry Highway, saw Powell come in and believed he had been boasting that he had killed Cedric.
She told her mother Powell was in the restaurant, and a short while later Cedric's father appeared and immediately began punching him, police said.
Mills grabbed Powell from behind, dragged him about 20 feet through the restaurant and tried to take him outside, police said, kicking him in the face and body.
When someone said police had been called, Mills fled. He was arrested the next day at home and subsequently released on $2,500 bail.
Neither Mills nor Powell could be reached for comment.
This is not Mills' first arrest for battery in a case involving his son.
Police records show that twice in October 2004 he punched a Plant High School student after the 18-year-old fought with Cedric. Mills was charged with misdemeanor battery, and was found guilty.
Police cite two instances in which Mills, described as 6 feet and 240 pounds, hit Allen Brooks in his face repeatedly.
In one confrontation, Brooks, 5 feet 5 and 186 pounds, had cuts on his lip, his right eye swelled nearly shut and he passed out, police said.
He told police that Mills threatened to kill him if he didn't leave his son alone. Brooks said he and his friends had fought with Cedric Mills at the Westshore Plaza movies three weeks before.
Mills told police his son called him for help, fearing that he would be "jumped" by Brooks and another man. Mills drove to the site and fought with Brooks. He said he had no problem being arrested for fighting for his son.
Anyone with information about the murder is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-873-8477.
Elisabeth Dyer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 226-3321