TAMPA — One day this summer, Jon Coleman gave his daughter Crysi a pep talk of sorts.
“I just want you to be confident of what you want because the world is not too big for you to grab,” Coleman recalled telling his 18-year-old daughter, who’d recently graduated from Blake High School in Tampa. “She told me, ‘Dad, it’s too soon to be thinking like that, I’ve got plenty of time to grab hold of the world.’ ”
Her father told her she needed to grab it now.
“She said, ‘Dad, I’m going to live like there’s no tomorrow,’ “ Jon Coleman recalled. “And then she turned the music up, of course.”
The people gathered for Crysi Marie Coleman’s celebration of life that September day laughed at the father’s memory, a moment of levity amid the grief.
Two weeks earlier, on Aug. 29, Crysi Coleman was shot in the head when a friend playing with a handgun fired the weapon, according to Tampa police.
Instead of calling 911, police say, 16-year-old Yanmarkoz Jimenez and his friend Sabian Taft, 18, drove Crysi to a hospital, dropped her off and left, police say. She died soon after. An autopsy showed the shooting was a homicide.
Jimenez was arrested Oct. 1 on charges of manslaughter with a weapon and tampering with evidence. Taft was arrested five days later on an evidence tampering charge.
The Tampa Bay Times is naming Jimenez in this story due to the nature of the charges and because Hillsborough State Attorney Andrew Warren’s office is prosecuting him as an adult. Manslaughter with a weapon is a first-degree felony in Florida punishable by up to 30 years in prison. Evidence tampering is a felony punishable by up to five years.
The Tampa Police Department did not identify Crysi Coleman in a news release reporting Jimenez’s arrest earlier this month. She is identified in court records that shed more light on what investigators say happened the day she was shot.
The shooting cut short the life of a woman described by family and friends as funny, outgoing, loyal and excited about her future.
A gunshot, then changing stories
About 10 p.m. that day, a Sunday, police received a call about two young males arriving at Tampa General Hospital in a white sport-utility vehicle with a woman in the back seat who’d been shot in the head.
A paramedic working at the emergency room entrance asked the pair multiple times what happened to the woman. They said they didn’t know, arrest reports say. The paramedic put Coleman in a wheelchair and rushed her to the trauma area. She was pronounced dead about 15 minutes later.
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Surveillance video shows the SUV leaving the hospital a couple of minutes after it arrived.
Detectives determined Coleman had been at Taft’s house on the 2600 block of Durham Street in Tampa’s Palmetto Beach neighborhood.
Detectives went to Taft’s house and spoke to him. After detectives got a search warrant for the house, Taft said he wanted to amend his statement. He said Coleman had been shot in his bedroom by a 9mm Glock 19 he owned. He said he and Jimenez then drove her to the hospital.
“Taft advised that he cleaned up the room when he returned home because he did not want to see the victim’s blood and it made him want to throw up,” Taft’s arrest report says.
Taft said he covered a bullet hole in his door with a sticker on one side and filled the other side with toothpaste. He pointed detectives to cleaning wipes and towels he’d hidden in his mother’s room along with “carpeting/flooring,” the report says.
Meanwhile, other detectives went to Jimenez’s house on the 2200 block of Harper Street, about a half-mile away. He initially claimed that Taft picked him up with Coleman already injured, then changed his story and said he was at Taft’s house playing video games when Coleman picked up the gun and accidentally shot herself.
Jimenez later changed his statement again. He said he was in Taft’s bedroom and began to play with a gun that was on the bed. Jimenez said he took out the magazine, began to wave the gun around and unintentionally pulled the trigger, hitting Coleman. He said he thought the gun was unloaded and didn’t realize there was a round in the chamber, according to the report.
Jimenez told detectives he drove Coleman to the hospital with Taft because he was scared, the report says.
Jimenez said he couldn’t help Taft clean up the scene because it upset him too much, the report says. He took the gun to his house and hid it in a Purina dog food bag. His mother turned over the gun to detectives, the report states.
Jimenez was initially arrested as a juvenile but, after prosecutors filed charges in his case, he was booked into the Hillsborough County jail on Oct. 11. He was released the same day after posting $17,000 bail, records show. The attorney listed for Jimenez, Daniel Fernandez, did not return two messages left at his office this week.
Taft’s attorney, Brian Shrader, declined to comment.
A spokesman for Warren’s office, Grayson Kamm, said in an email that the office has reduced the number of juveniles charged as adults by nearly 60 percent over the past five years.
“But there are still cases like this, where the defendant’s actions and severity of the crime merit handling in the adult system,” Kamm said.
‘She was looking forward to helping people’
Coleman’s family answered some questions from the Times sent by email to Coleman’s aunt, Tampa attorney Shiobhan Olivero.
Though his arrest report describes Taft as Coleman’s boyfriend, the family said she and Taft were an on-again, off-again couple who met in middle school and were just friends at the time of the shooting. The family said Coleman met Jimenez through Taft.
Coleman was the youngest of Jon and Stephanie Coleman’s three children and lived with her mother in Riverview. At the celebration of her life, held Sept. 9 at Hillsboro Memorial Gardens in Brandon and streamed online, Jon Coleman indicated she was a welcome surprise.
“She was my miracle child,” he said.
Coleman loved shopping, shoes and eating at Mr. and Mrs. Crab, her family said. She was a talented singer who sang in the choral at Blake, where she graduated with honors. She was applying to Concord Medical Institute to become a medical assistant.
“She was looking forward to wearing scrubs and helping people,” her family said.
Blake chorus director Joseph Galeczka dedicated the chorus’ fall concert last week to Coleman. He called her “a light of our lives here.”
“She always had a way of making friends smile,” Galeczka told the audience. “She had a way of calling them out when they needed to be called out. She didn’t play that way.”
Galeczka played a video of Coleman singing Hurt, by Christina Aguilera.
Seems like it was yesterday when I saw your face, You told me how proud you were but I walked away, If only I knew what I know today...
The video faded into a slideshow: Coleman as a middle school student with a bright pink backpack. Mugging for the camera with friends at Blake. Wearing her black cap and gown. Showing off her diploma.
Her family declined to answer questions about whether they feel the charges against Jimenez and Taft are appropriate, or how the teens should be punished if found guilty.
“We just want justice for Crysi,” the family said.