BRADENTON -- Homicide detectives are investigating the shooting death of a 15-year-old boy Thursday evening in Bradenton, according to police.
Bradenton police received a report of shots heard at 8:44 p.m. Thursday.
"The caller said she had heard gunshots in the area," said police Deputy Chief Warren Merriman. "When officers arrived they saw a white male in the middle of 2500 block of 13th Avenue East."
Dakota A. Smith, who lived only three blocks away, was dead by the time officers arrived.
He was a student at Horizons Academy, according to Manatee County School District spokesman Steve Valley.
Witnesses told police that they saw two men walking behind Dakota and then heard gunfire. Police, however, did not recover any bullet casings, according to an initial report.
The Manatee County Homicide Task Force, which includes investigators from the Manatee County Sheriff's Office and local police departments, is investigating the slaying.
Dakota's death is the first homicide in the city of Bradenton in 2014.
Pamela Cash wasn't home when Dakota's friends came running to tell her that her son had been shot. With no answer at her door, the boys knocked on the door of next-door neighbors Donna and Charles Price.
The couple, who had come to consider Cash a friend, immediately went to the scene. Cash had stopped by her neighbors' house before making a quick run to the store.
"Somehow she got the news and she just came running," Donna Price said. "I don't know what it's like to lose a child but I believe it's the worst."
Now the grief stricken single mother is preparing a funeral for one of her boys.
Donna Price recalls only recently her neighbor sharing how she was planning a movie night with Dakota and her 13-year-old son.
"She loved them," she said.
Dakota is remembered by the couple as a respectful boy who was very quiet.
"He used to help me bring in my groceries, and sometimes he would sit and talk to me," Charles Price said. "He was a nice young man, just a regular teenager."
Dakota died less than a block away from Norma Lloyd Park, home of the 13 AVE Dream Center, which was the scene of another deadly shooting just over six months ago.
"We have no reason to believe it connected to any previous shootings," Merriman said.
Anyone with any information about the case should call Bradenton police Detective James Curulla at 941-747-3011, ext. 2224, or to remain anonymous and be eligible for a cash reward of up to $1,000, call Crime Stoppers (toll free) at 1-866-634-8477 (TIPS) or send an anonymous E-Tip through the web at www.manateecrimestoppers.com
Jessica De Leon, Herald law enforcement reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7049. You can follow her on Twitter @JDeLeon1012.