BRADENTON -- A place where generations of children have played drew about 200 parents and community members who were outraged over a very public killing on the field that is considered "sacred ground."
Brenton Coleman Sr. and his two children were on those fields at the 13th Avenue Community Center when Coleman, 39, was gunned down shortly after a Manatee Mustangs football practice Thursday while holding one of his two children.
"I am mad as hell," Patrick Carnegie, director of the 13th Avenue Dream Center, told the crowd that gathered there Friday night. "In 75 years, this never happened here, not in this place. This is a place where children can play and learn in safety."
Police say two people were involved in the "execution-style killing" and they are looking for the public's help in tracking down the people who would shed blood at a community gathering place that was designed to nurture Manatee County's children.
Manatee County Commissioner Michael Gallen and Manatee County NAACP president Susie Copeland both offered to take calls from the public on the case.
"I believe in the saying, 'Evil prevails when good men do nothing," Copeland said. "Call me. Let me call the police."
She provided her phone number, 941-447-2189.
"I have to ask the parents in this room," said Bradenton Police Chief Michael Radzilowski said. "Is anything anymore important than your child?"
There was a thunderous "No" from the audience.
"We have to partner to end this," Radzilowski said. "Solving a case is like put
ting a puzzle together. You may have a small piece of the puzzle that will help us. Meanwhile, we will be at every event that you hold here to make sure our kids are safe,"
Radzilowski received appreciative applause.
Gina Burney-Miller, who had seen the victim fall and heard the gunshots, raised her hand and asked the audience to recognize the 30 or so Mustang football coaches, some of whom grabbed children under each arm and ran with them into the building.
Everett Smalls raised his hand and asked the people in the room to talk to their children in a positive way about what happened and not be critical.
"Let them know how you felt, that you were upset and it is OK to feel upset," Smalls said.
"You don't want them to not want to do anything anymore. And it won't be just here. They will feel that way about school, too."
The community center made grief counselors available to families in need and officials vowed to have security at future football practices.
James Amoah raised his hand and said, "Some say we are not our brother's keepers. But I believe anything you see that is wrong, say something. You are not snitching if you see something that isn't right, you are doing right."
Burney-Miller was an eye-witness to the shooting, but did not see the shooters.
She was in a vehicle in the parking lot with her Godmother, Donna Thomas and sister Misty Thomas.
"We were in the line of fire," Burney-Miller said.
Andre Miller, her husband, had just gotten out of their vehicle to meet his son when a bullet whizzed by his ear and rammed into the radiator of his vehicle.
He grabbed Jabarre and "stuffed him under the bumper of the car," Miller said.
These are not the lasting memories Burney-Miller wants her children or any one else's child to have of these fields.
"This is sacred ground because we have to get these kids now, here, on a good path when they are young," she said.
Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-748-0411, ext. 6686.