MANATEE — Authorities believe a man fatally gunned down inside a duplex with his girlfriend and daughter was possibly not the intended target of the gunfire.
Joesph X. Evans, 18, was on the computer in the back bedroom of a duplex in the 6000 block of First Street East when two men shot through the window, firing multiple shots at Evans at about 8 p.m. Sept. 4.
“I think it’s possible,” said Manatee County Sheriff’s Office Homicide Sgt. Pete Rampone when asked if Evans was the wrong man. Based on information detectives received, Rampone said Evans does not appear to be the intended target. He also had a minor criminal history.
Detectives are still trying to identify the two gunmen and asking for witnesses to come forward.
Evans’ mother, Celeste Evans, said she received a phone call from a possible gang affiliate who apologized for what he said others did to her son.
“He said he would never do that to my son. He said he respected me. He had nothing to do with someone killing my son,” Evans said in her living room Wednesday.
A family friend’s car — a green two-door Monte Carlo — was parked at the duplex that night because he sometimes stopped by to eat or use the shower. According to family members, however, the gunmen did not check to see who it was before opening fire.
“They automatically assumed. They thought, ‘We caught him down there at night. We found his house,’ ” Evans said. “They didn’t check to see if it was him. They just started shooting. These guys weren’t his friends. He didn’t have anything to do with these guys at all.”
Joesph Evans had plans to marry his 18-year-old girlfriend, with whom he shared a 1-year-old daughter, and attend college, Evans said.
“They took him away with all the plans he had,” said Evans.
“It’s going to take more innocent people to get killed for this to stop,” Evans said. “It’s not fair. It’s not right.”
Detectives are monitoring gang activity in the area, but need community members to provide information on the gunmen, Rampone said.
“We need people to step up to the plate and do the right thing,” he said.
Evans said it’s frustrating that witnesses won’t come forward, but she understands they are scared.
“Look at what happened to my son. Who wants to go through that? That would scare anybody,” she said.
At some point, Evans believes her son’s killers will face justice and someone will come forward.
“I have faith in God and the sheriff’s office,” she said. “If (people) care for him as much as they say they do, someone will help.”
Evans’ slaying marked the seventh homicide county-wide this year. Four of those cases remain open without arrests.
Anyone with any information can contact Manatee County Sheriff’s Office Detective Jeff Bliss at 747-3011, ext. 2159, or remain anonymous and possibly become eligible for a cash reward by calling Crime Stoppers at (866) 634-TIPS (8477).