MANATEE -- A shootout involving four people and drugs left one person dead in Manatee County’s Pride Park neighborhood about 2:40 p.m. Wednesday.
Deputies responded to the 1000 block of 61st Avenue Drive East in Bradenton to reports of a shooting. Kenye Cooper Sr., 26, was found dead in a van, according to the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office.
One person involved in the shootout remained at large Wednesday evening.
Two men inside the house told deputies they were inside playing video games when the other two men came by and started a fight, according to the news release.
“When we arrived on scene, we didn’t see anybody,” sheriff’s office spokesman Randy Warren said. “But then we did find a body slumped in a car a few houses down.”
It appeared an argument between four people involved in drugs led to the shooting, according to Warren.
“It appears that two people arrived in a white Ford Expedition, went into the house, there was an argument, a fight, shots were fired — multiple shots inside the residence,” Warren said. “That spilled out into the residence.”
The two home occupants shot at the other two people as they were attempting to flee. Cooper got into the Expedition, which was shot at numerous times and got stuck in a ditch, Warren said. The victim then walked down the street, crawled into the backseat of a Mazda SUV in the process of turning around in a cul-de-sac, fell over in the vehicle and died. The two Mazda occupants were not involved in the shooting incident, Warren said.
While motive is still unclear, paraphernalia was found inside where the shootout occurred and it appeared the argument was over drugs, Warren said.
The two home occupants were escorted to the sheriff’s office headquarters to be interviewed by detectives. The Manatee County Homicide Investigative Unit is leading the investigation.
Yards from the crime scene, Sabina Perez stood beside her 9-year-old son, Giovanni Perez. The 35-year-old, who lives one street over, said they came to see what was going on after they saw a heavy law enforcement presence in the neighborhood.
“Neighbors told me they heard four shots and that someone died. ... But they didn’t tell me any more information,” Perez said in Spanish. “In reality, we don’t know why this happened.”
Perez said she lived on this same street a decade ago, and had never seen anything like this happen.
“I feel bad for the family — if this person has a family or children,” she said of the victim. “Even more so in this holiday season. ... I think what we all hope for is to have a tranquil Christmas and, to see this, I think it won’t be easy for the family.”
As the hours wore on, the crowd of people grew thicker along the unpaved road.
A woman in a colorful striped dress, later identified the victim’s family member, ran toward the scene, screaming. Her entire body shook as she approached the yellow crime scene tape.
Another woman comforted the distraught woman as she spoke to homicide detectives. Soon, a half dozen women gathered around her, huddled together by a black sheriff’s office vehicle.
The Mazda SUV where the victim’s body was found remained lopsided in the ditch, its right side leaning against multiple palm trees.
“People can’t be safe around here,” said Barbara Matthews, who stood outside a nearby home. “People think they can just run up in people’s houses and do what they want to do.”
Matthews, 68, said the violence makes her angry. She has a child who lives in the neighborhood.
“I’m tired of it myself,” she said. “But anyway, as long as they ain’t here hurting mine, I’m not too much concerned about it.”
Angela Willett, a longtime neighborhood resident, arrived at the scene after her nephew said he heard four gunshots.
“I’m sad,” she said, “and I’m upset because we need more community people to get involved in the community.”
In a nearby driveway, Karen Edwards stood beside Arthur Huggins, associate pastor for Community Outreach Word of Deliverance Church in Bradenton.
“This brings out a lot of emotions for me about my son,” said Edwards, whose own son, Keyvis McCullough, died after being shot at 1 p.m. Sept. 5 in the 700 block of 12th Avenue West, Bradenton. “It’s a lot of senseless killing and it really don’t make sense what they be doing. My son got killed taking his son home.”
The stay-at-home mother said she’s seen multiple shootings in the area.
“They’re killing each other for drugs, money. ... and that’s a bad thing. It really is,” the 52 year old said. “Whoever this kid is, he done lost his life for no reason.”
Edwards, who described herself as an evangelist, said she prays all the time.
“I pray day and night,” she said.
Huggins’ eyes focused on the scene before him.
“After a while, you have to be careful because you see so much of it. ... you don’t want to become numb to it,” he said, arms crossed. “I think sometimes, coming, seeing it when it’s fresh like this, just reminds me just how bad the problem really is still in our community.”
Later in the evening, the crowd of people turned to see a screaming woman run down the street.
“Oh my goodness! Where he at?!” she cried. “Oh my goodness. ... they killed my baby!”
A man quickly embraced the crying woman and led her to a nearby home.
Anyone with information on this case can call the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office at 941-747-3011 or Crime Stoppers at 866-634-TIPS.
Jessica De Leon, Herald law enforcement reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7049. Follow her on Twitter@AmarisCastillo.