BRADENTON -- Many of the families whose children play sports at the 13th Avenue Dream Center decided Saturday morning that they wouldn't let crime take something or stop them from going on with their normal activities, including football practice.
Brenton Coleman Sr., 39, was shot and killed shortly after 8 p.m. Thursday in the parking lot of the Dream Center, 1011 24th St. E. The killing took place just as football practice had ended.
Coleman had been holding his 5-year-old child when two gunmen singled him out and shot him with a crowd of 300 to 400 people gathered for the practices.
Aaron Pawelkoski was just getting into his car with his sons, ages 6 and 13, when the first shots were heard Thursday night.
"I thought it was fireworks at first because it was peaceful just like any other practice," Pawelkoski said. "After the second round, people started to run."
Pawelkoski lives in the neighborhood where the Dream Center is located. He says he did not hesitate to bring his boys back to football practice Saturday.
"This is a good neighborhood, there is no reason to hide out around here," Pawelkoski said.
Pawelkoski attended an emergency meeting for parents Friday night at the Dream Center. He said it was nice that the police chief came out.
He was mostly reassured, however, by the coaching staff, who he says do everything they can for the children both on and off the field.
"You can't let an isolated incident, or something that started somewhere else and ended up here, stop you," Pawelkoski said. "If we don't come back then they win."
An officer was stationed at the park during Saturday's practices, mostly to reassure the families, but also to keep an ear out for anyone who might have seen something.
"We still need the help of the community," Bradenton Police Sgt. Brian Thiers said. "The Manatee Homicide Task Force is working the case. They are working on several anonymous leads."
Detectives have yet to identify a suspect or person of interest.
"There were hundreds of people here, obviously someone saw something," Thiers said. "We are asking them to make a call."
Thiers said police have always patrolled the park and the surrounding neighborhood.
"We are just using the officer that works the area," Thiers said.
He said the department is working with the Dream Center's director to decide how security will be handled in the future.
"I truly believe you will see the community come out of this stronger than ever," Thiers said.
Ebony Perry, one of Coleman's childhood friends, was watching her 6-year-old son practice football Saturday morning at the center. She said she was saddened that violence had come to the field.
Perry said she wasn't at practice Thursday night because she picked her son up early from the Dream Center to go to a party.
She had intended to make it back for practice but then she realized practice was over and shortly after she got a call about the shooting.
Perry had known Coleman since they were about 10 years old but had not seen him recently. She is friends with the mother of one of his children.
"He hadn't even been out of jail long," Perry said. "He had said he wanted to do better by his kids."
Perry said she was not afraid of further violent crime at the park.
"I'm not afraid of my child coming back out," Perry said. "It's just tragedies that happen. It's sad that it happened around the kids."
Anyone with information can call CrimeStoppers at 866-634-8477 or Det. James Curulla at 941-747-3011, ext. 2224.
Jessica De Leon, law enforcement reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7049. You can follow her on Twitter @JDeLeon1012.