TAMPA — He liked video games and fishing and the Tampa Bay Rays.
His grandmother used to send him beef jerky for his birthday and he liked it so much he’d eat it by the pound.
Growing up, he impressed adults with his reverence, punctuating conversations with “yes, sir” and “yes, ma’am.”
On March 20, he was riding with his girlfriend down E 18th Avenue, just north of Ybor City, when someone fired a gun from the roadside. He was shot and killed. He was 18.
The murder of Talance Callins is the kind of crime that in normal times might yield considerable public attention. But in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic that has uprooted so much of American daily life in recent weeks, news of the teen’s slaying has been somewhat obscured.
Police hope that changes. For, like all murdered young men, Callins has people who miss him.
“He was such a good kid,” his grandmother, Beckie Foreman, said. “It’s sad. It’s just so sad.”
Tampa police released the teen’s name this week, along with a picture and a few details of the crime in an effort to generate tips about who is responsible for the slaying. So far, no arrests have been made.
His family likewise hopes that if people know more about him, it may spur someone to come forward.
Callins grew up in Plant City and Tampa. He was the youngest of three, with an older brother and sister. A Facebook page says he attended Armwood High School. In a family photo, he beams with arms folded as he stands inside a hollow tree trunk near a waterside. Other images show him dining at a restaurant with friends, or mugging for the camera with a fake mustache.
“He always made me laugh,” Foreman said. “No matter how down I was, that boy would cheer me up.”
Life was hard and he sometimes struggled to help his family pay the bills. Even with limited means, he urged his mother to give money to the homeless, Foreman said.
He’d worked for FedEx, but had recently been laid off, she said. He was interested in getting into the Job Corps.
Lately, he’d been living in a rough part of east Tampa. He’d never been in trouble, his family said. But he feared for his safety.
What little Foreman knows about what happened came from her grandson’s girlfriend. Her words are enough to evoke a vivid image of Callins behind the wheel of his mom’s dark blue 4-door Volkswagen.
The girl sat beside him. It was after midnight. They were headed to St. Joseph’s Hospital to pick up a relative.
As they headed west, Callins looked at her. He told her she was so beautiful.
His foot squeezed the brakes near N 27th Street. They let out a squeaky sound. The girl saw a man in a nearby yard.
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Then came a volley of gunfire.
Callins was shot twice, his grandmother said.
The car kept moving for two blocks, past houses and tree-lined grass lots, down the narrow road to N 25th Street, where it crashed into a tree. Paramedics arrived and tried to save his life. He was dead when they got to the hospital.
Police said they have no reason to believe Callins was targeted specifically.
The day before Callins was shot, another man was slain in the 3400 block of N 15th Street. Police have not released his name.
And the day after, officers were called to a report of gunfire in Tampa Park Apartments, where they found 27-year-old Devante’ Brown wounded. He was taken to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
In a news conference this week, Police Chief Brian Dugan joined City Councilman Orlando Gudes and State Rep. Dianne Hart to ask for the public’s help in putting an end to the violence. They spoke of people not coming forward with information, and of how important it is for people to speak up.
They are concerns echoed by Callins’ family.
“I just need somebody to say something,” said Jermaine Callins, his father, who lives in Georgia. “I was on the streets when I was younger. The streets talk. Somebody knows.”
Anyone with information about the killing of Talance Callins, or any of the other recent shootings in the city, is asked to contact the Tampa Police Department at (813) 276-3200. Tips can also be provided anonymously through Crime Stoppers of Tampa Bay at 1 (800) 873-TIPS (8477).