PALMETTO Toni Dunbar was at a church in Tampa when she learned her oldest son was shot.
She called Manatee Memorial Hospital, where someone told her to pray. When Dunbar arrived, she mentally prepared herself with the fact that she would have to take care of her son while he recovered.
But Dunbar received different news.
“I really wasn’t expecting for them to tell me that he died,” she said, wiping tears from her eyes.
Patrick Dunbar, 26, was shot to death in Palmetto on Tuesday night, Palmetto police said.
About 8:45 p.m., officers found Dunbar slumped behind the wheel of a Hyundai Sonata in the front yard of a home in the 200 block of 11th Street Drive West.
Police are now investigating the homicide, which is the seventh slaying in Manatee County this year, and the first in the city of Palmetto.
Palmetto police Lt. Scott Tyler said detectives have “some persons of interest in the case.”
“We think we have a very good idea of what happened,” he said, adding that police
could not disclose more details on the circumstances of the shooting. “We’re focusing on people that we know were there when it happened.”
Tyler said the car in which Dunbar was found is now at the Palmetto Police Department. Detectives obtained a search warrant Wednesday morning.
The motive of the slaying is unknown, but Tyler said it may be “a result of maybe, perhaps a beef between people.”
Drugs don’t appear to be involved, but “we’re not ruling things out,” Tyler said.
Dunbar was a convicted felon and his criminal history includes fraud and cocaine charges, Manatee court records show.
His mother, Toni, said Dunbar was the eldest of her three sons and one daughter.
“I’m just going to miss him,” she said. “But I got good memories of my son.”
In recent months, Dunbar said Patrick was becoming more family-oriented and spent more time with his loved ones rather than with friends.
He loved her cooking, Toni said, and often took his favorite home-cooked meals oxtail, turkey wings and yellow rice to his friends when he went out.
Dunbar was the father of two children: a 6-year-old daughter and a 1-year-old son.
A man who answered the door at the home in the 200 block of 11th Street Drive West said he didn’t know about the shooting. Crime scene tape could be seen in a nearby garbage can.
A woman who identified herself as Patrick’s cousin said he had just pulled into her driveway. When she came back outside, the woman, who declined to give her name in fear of retaliation, saw Patrick’s car on the other side of the road and heard gunshots. She ran inside the house. “My cousin didn’t even make it in the house,” she said. “How did that happen? ... I don’t know.”
The last time Toni Dunbar saw Patrick was Tuesday night before she headed to church. He told her, “Mom, I love you.”
“And that was the last words he said,” Dunbar said.
Dunbar said she has faith in God that her son’s killer will be arrested. “He’ll (God) let everything we need to know be known.”
Tyler said detectives are “anxious” to find witnesses. Dunbar’s slaying is the first Palmetto homicide since the Club Elite shooting that left two dead and 22 injured last September.
Anyone with information is asked to call the Palmetto Police Department, 941-723-4587, or call anonymously at Manatee County CrimeStoppers, 866-634-8477.