TAMPA — Another teen was killed in east Tampa on Sunday afternoon and police are working to identify a suspect and motive.
Edward Harris, 14, was killed at N 32nd and E Diana streets near Woodland Terrace Park, near his home.
It's unclear whether the teen was shot or stabbed, but Tampa police spokeswoman Andrea Davis said he suffered upper body trauma. Police who arrived on scene tried to revive Harris before he was transported to Tampa General Hospital where he died from his injuries.
"We don't believe it was random, but obviously a 14-year-old boy being killed in a park is something that is very tragic," Davis said. "And it's something that we're taking very seriously and trying to determine who would commit an act like this."
This has been a particularly bloody year for Tampa. In the first three months of 2014, there were seven homicides. That number more than doubled to 15 in the same time period of this year. This latest case is one of several involving teens.
Mayor Bob Buckhorn talked with neighbors at the scene Sunday evening about the rise in fatalities this year.
"These young men who solve every dispute with a gun for even the simplest slights or neighborhood beefs, it's becoming an epidemic," he said. "It's just senseless. When I was growing up, you settled things with your fists. You didn't automatically pull out a gun and solve every argument with a gun."
Police and community members have partnered to hold meetings and marches in the past couple of months protesting the rise in violence. Buckhorn said the parks and recreation department has doubled the offerings at its centers in hopes of giving kids options this summer and keeping them off the streets. And while police have worked to build stronger community relationships, he said much of the responsibility also rests on the kids to make good decisions.
"These young people, if they want to end up a statistic, either incarcerated or dead, the choice is theirs," Buckhorn said. "Either get out of the life and find good role models, or you end up in the street in a pool of blood at age 14. That's the reality."
Faye Moseley, who lives across the street from where the homicide occurred, said the community needs resources and help from the police and local leaders.
"We try to help, but you can only do so much," Moseley said. "We need help in our community. We need to get programs and get the organizations to be positives in the neighborhood."
Unlike other investigations this year, which have been thwarted by uncooperative witnesses, Davis said detectives are working good leads in the case. She described the area as the safest neighborhood in east Tampa.
"There's nothing anyone can say to make the family of a 14-year-old child who has lost their son feel okay about this," Davis said. "Yes, the violence of young people in this city has been very tragic lately. … We need everyone to get involved to help combat the violence that's been occurring."
Times staff photographer Octavio Jones contributed to this report. Contact Caitlin Johnston at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 226-3401. Follow @cljohnst.