A Palmetto High School senior charged with the fatal shooting of another teen was ordered held without bond Thursday.
Da’Quan Lavonte Gaskin was arrested Wednesday night by the Palmetto Police Department and charged with second-degree murder in the Oct. 2 death of Alexander Anderson. Gaskin had been eluding law enforcement since a warrant was issued Oct. 6 for his arrest.
In an interview with detectives two days after the slaying, Gaskin said he had last seen Anderson on the night of Oct. 2, when they and another teen were gathered at Gaskin’s home to smoke marijuana. Anderson left the house by himself, Gaskin told detectives, according to the arrest warrant affidavit.
However, the third teen described for detectives how Gaskin shot Anderson in the back of the head.
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“I’m glad I got that over with,” Gaskin said, according to the other teen, after the shooting.
Gaskin stood silently as he appeared before Manatee County Judge Mark Singer Thursday for his first appearance hearing via video conference. Singer found "the proof of guilt is evident and the presumption of guilt is great," and ordered Gaskin held without bond.
Assistant State Attorney Art Brown called lead homicide detective Jeffrey Bliss to testify in order to support his argument for Gaskin to be held without bond.
The murder weapon was not recovered when detectives searched Gaskin’s home, the detective said. They did recover one of two handguns that Gaskin had been known to carry based on a description given by the other teen.
Assistant Public Defender Franklin Roberts argued the state’s case was based on circumstantial evidence other than the one eyewitness’s account.
“Eyewitness accounts are notoriously suspect,” Roberts said. “The presumption is not great in this case. “
The third teen had not come forward until after law enforcement tried to speak to him, he argued. While there was probable cause to arrest Gaskin, Roberts said he still felt Gaskin was entitled to bond.
Singer disagreed, ruling that the prosecution had met its burden. He also ordered Gaskin to have no contact with the third teen.
Anderson’s mother and other family members in attendance at the hearing were pleased with the judge’s ruling.
“I’m glad they got him,” his mother, Tamala Jones, said outside the courthouse.
A tear ran down her check as Jones remembered her son.
“I’m going to miss him,” she said. “He always told me to keep me head up.”
At 11:40 p.m. Oct. 2, deputies responded to the 2000 block of First Avenue in Palmetto after a 911 caller reported seeing a man in the road. Deputies found Anderson dead from an apparent gunshot wound.
Anderson’s family, including his mother, who were gathered at the scene, told Bliss the victim had just left a home with Gaskin and another teen before he was found shot dead, according to the affidavit.
On Oct. 4, Gaskin was interviewed inside the School Resource Officer’s office at Palmetto High School. Gaskin said he and the other teen had walked to Anderson’s home to get him and then walked back to his home. While at his house, Gaskin said the three had smoked marijuana, according to Bliss’s testimony Thursday.
Anderson left alone then, Gaskin claimed, and it was later that Anderson’s brother had told him that Anderson was dead.
The third teen later reported that he was told by Gaskin to give detectives the same account he had. But when he was interviewed on Oct. 6 at the State Attorney’s Office, he told them what he said really happened.
Gaskin had picked him up after getting off work that Sunday night, the teen told Bliss and Brown. The two then walked over to Anderson’s home to get him, after Gaskin had called to say they were on their way.
The three teens spoke for a few minutes outside Anderson’s house before walking off together, heading to Gaskin’s home.
The third teen said as he was talking to Anderson, he noticed Gaskin pulled out a handgun and pointed it at the back of the victim’s head. He ran off in fear, he said according to the affidavit, hearing one single gunshot as he did.
Gaskin then caught up with him.
The two continued to Gaskin’s home, where he went inside momentarily before taking the other teen home.
There was a delay of 15 minutes between when the shot was heard and a 911 call was received, Bliss testified during Thursday’s hearing. A resident who had heard a loud bang, initially thought it was a firework, even when he saw two males running off.
The resident became more suspicious and walked outside, Bliss said, and that’s when he saw Anderson laying in a pool of blood and called 911.