WINTER HAVEN, Fla. — An investigation is ongoing into the early morning shooting death of a 15-year-old who, just hours before, was said to be seen on the couch playing games on his phone.
Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd identified the teen as Quashawn Burgess Jr. during a news conference Tuesday afternoon; a woman came across his body lying in a driveway on St. Paul Drive near Winter Lake Road, also known as State Road 540.
Burgess had been affiliated with gang activity in the past and may have been shot by someone who knew him, the sheriff said.
The teen's mother saw him inside their home playing games on his phone around 10 p.m. Monday as she prepared to put her other son to bed, according to Judd. At around 3 a.m., she reportedly got up from her room and saw that Burgess was no longer in the living room, assuming he had gone to bed.
But it's believed the teen left the Bartow home in the middle of the night and made his way to Winter Haven where he was shot and killed shortly before 2:30 a.m. The woman who found him left work and headed to her friend's house to avoid a long drive back to her house but as she pulled into the home, she noticed the teen lying in the driveway.
"When he was 11 years old, he was a good kid," Judd said. "His mom said as he got older, he got to be a problem."
On Tuesday evening, Quashawn's family and friends gathered outside his home. While his mother did not wish to speak on camera, she shared with 10 Tampa Bay that her son loved God, music and animals. He had dreams of being a vet or a real estate agent.
He was a good kid, she said — but found trouble in recent years after being bullied at school. She said he hardened himself as a way of self-defense. However, she said he'd been making efforts in the past few months to turn his life around.
The sheriff confirmed Burgess violated his probation after he did not enroll in any school this year.
Deputies are currently looking over video surveillance gathered from a neighbor's home where the death occurred, but are still counting on someone in the community to help them out with the investigation.
"His mother and his family loved him very much," Judd said. "He didn't deserve to die and we're going to find out who murdered him. Keep Quashawn's family and especially his mother in your prayers."
The Polk County Sheriff's Office is offering a $5,000 reward for anyone who can provide information on the homicide.