BRADENTON — Two teens got out of a vehicle just after midnight Monday. Enemies in the past, it appeared things had changed.
That, police and family said, was not the case.
Witnesses told police that after the teens got out of a car together in an East Bradenton neighborhood, Jamari Lamon Murray-Barnes stepped behind 16-year-old Justin Fabien and shot him in the head and neck.
Murray-Barnes, 17, who surrendered to authorities early Thursday, will appear in court Friday afternoon for the first time.
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Fabien’s sister said he was killed because of a dispute over his gun.
Another possible motive: A witness told investigators that Murray-Barnes told him that Fabien had pistol-whipped and robbed him of $1,000 several weeks earlier.
Detectives with the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office Homicide Investigative Unit on Tuesday obtained a warrant for Murray-Barnes’ arrest, charging him with first-degree murder. They had been unable to locate him prior to his surrender.
“Mr. Murray-Barnes invoked his right to remain silent and is not cooperating with investigators,” police said in a news release announcing his arrest.
It was a 15-year-old witness, located during a canvass of the neighborhood after the shooting, who told police he saw a passenger get out of a red Chevrolet HHR and shoot Fabien. The car, including the shooter as a passenger, then headed north on 21st Street East, according to police.
A couple hours later, the driver was picked up by the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office and found himself detailing the slaying to Bradenton police homicide Detective James Curulla.
Before the shooting, Murray-Barnes had been sitting in the front-passenger seat and Fabien had been in the back seat behind the driver, according to the affidavit. He said Fabien had asked to be dropped off, and when the driver approached the 1200 block of 21st Street East, Fabien got out.
Murray-Barnes also got out, according to the affidavit, stood behind Fabien and shot him in the head and back. He then got back into the car, and asked the driver to drop him off at a home near 75th Street West and Cortez Road.
The driver told Curulla he was in shock after witnessing the slaying and asked Murray-Barnes why he shot Fabien. That is when he said Murray-Barnes told him Fabien had pistol-whipped and robbed him weeks earlier, according to arrest documents.
Police responded to the scene at 12:27 a.m. Tuesday and found Fabien mortally wounded. He was pronounced dead at the scene at 12:36 a.m.When Curulla arrived at 1:10 a.m., he met Fabien’s mother, who told him her son lived with her in Palmetto but had been staying with friends at the home where he was shot.
About 2:09 a.m., after he was picked during a traffic stop by the sheriff’s office, the driver told Curulla he had picked up three males — including Murray-Barnes, known to him as “Appo,” and the victim. The driver had been close friends with Murray-Barnes’ father until the father went to prison, and had often given rides to his son and the third male in the car.
Police have not determined what, if any, charges the driver or other passenger will face in connection to the shooting.
Murray-Barnes was being held in a Manatee County jail cell block for juvenile offenders, according to the sheriff’s office. He is scheduled to make his first court appearance at 1 p.m. Friday.
Defense attorney Liane Mcurry accompanied Murray-Barnes to surrender himself, but she will not be representing him on the criminal charges, police said.
Victim’s family reacts
Fabien’s 14-year-old sister Dianica Coke said she and her mother felt better when they learned Murray-Barnes had surrendered.
Dianica said Murray-Barnes and others involved wanted to take her brother’s gun away from him.
“It was all a set-up,” Dianica said.
“They never did like each other,” Dianica said of her brother, Murray-Barnes and the others. “All of a sudden, they dropped their beef, and were acting nice to him.”
Fabien had made the mistake over the course of the past two weeks to trust the group, she said.
“He didn’t deserve that,” Dianica said. “He was a very good person.”
Her brother had a gun because he didn’t feel protected, she said. Dianica is still worried about her family’s safety, she added.
Fabien was looking forward to going back to Palmetto High, she said, and playing football and wrestling. She said what she misses most is his playful personality.
“Anytime he saw somebody who was down, he would go mess with them and make them smile,” Dianica said. “He was a very good-hearted person.”
Dianica worries about her younger siblings, ages 3, 7 and 9, who know their brother is gone but don’t really understand, she said.
The family will hold a candlelight vigil at 8 p.m. Friday outside the home where Fabien was shot. From 5 to 8 p.m. Saturday, the family is also inviting those who wish to pay their respects to a viewing at Westside Funeral Home, 204 Seventh St. W., Palmetto.
Jessica De Leon, Herald law enforcement reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7049. You can follow her on Twitter @JDeLeon1012.