Friends, family mourn loss of teen

Published 8:00 pm Monday, August 2, 2010

The man police suspect of killing a teenager early Sunday morning was released from jail on a suspended sentence for a 2009 incident only a month and a half ago.

Dontaz Latray Wilkerson, 19, of Windsor, received a five-year suspended sentence on June 14 for charges related to an Oct. 5, 2009, aggravated assault in the 300 block of Holliday Street.

Tyquan Lewis, 18, was shot and killed early Sunday morning after a fight broke out at a party, police said. Wilkerson has been charged with the crime.

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Lewis’ family members said Monday the teenager was respectful, outgoing, kindhearted and looking forward to his senior year at Lakeland High School.

“He was nice and very outgoing,” said Takia Britt, Lewis’s girlfriend of two years. “He never got into trouble. He just liked to joke around.”

Aunt Shandalyn Barnes said Lewis was a leader whose cousins admired him and who signed himself up for recreational football as a child.

“My son, his cousin, idolized him,” Barnes said. “He was a leader more so than a follower. He did his own thing. Not too often did you see him upset or sad.”

Lewis was shot in the 200 block of Walnut Street, near Booker T. Washington Elementary School, after a fight broke out at a party on Manning Road. He is the second Lakeland student and football player in eight months to die by gunfire. Michael Lee was killed Jan. 9 outside of a party in Norfolk.

Lakeland assistant principal Douglas Wagoner said the atmosphere at the school Monday was “shock,” even though few staffers were there.

“There’s just a deep desire on the part of everyone that this kind of thing never happens again,” he said. A counseling team will be available at the school Tuesday from 8 to 11 a.m. for students needing assistance.

Wagoner said school staff always works with students to develop appropriate methods for resolving conflict.

“Here at the school, we always talk about how to approach life situations and handle things socially as well as academically,” he said.

According to city spokeswoman Debbie George, Lewis may not have been the intended target, or the only intended target, of the shooting.

“When he shot, he fired a lot of rounds in that area,” George said of the suspect.

New details also emerged Monday about the timeline of events that led to the shooting.

The incident reportedly began at a party at the Bethlehem Ruritan clubhouse in the 100 block of Manning Road, which had been rented for a back-to-school party for a college student. At 12:43 a.m., a female 911 caller said there was a fight at the party, and that some people had guns.

According to George, Lewis and Wilkerson were involved in the fight on Manning Road. They left the party and met up on Spruce Street, where they again argued. They departed that location and finally met again on Walnut Street. A 911 call at 1:38 a.m. reported shots fired.

“There was some communication where they knew where to find each other,” George said of the victim and the suspect.

She said there is no indication that Lewis was armed.

Back at the Manning Road party, at least two others were injured during the fight. One stabbing victim walked into the emergency room at Sentara Obici Hospital about 2 a.m. Officers who responded to the party also found a male who had lacerations he received while running from the fight, George said.

Neither of those victims received life-threatening injuries, she added.

Wilkerson was charged with one count of first-degree murder, one count of use of a firearm in the commission of a felony; one count of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon; one count of shoot, stab, cut or wound; three counts of attempted malicious wounding and one count of discharging a firearm within 1,000 feet of a school.

Wilkerson’s first felony stemmed from an Oct. 5, 2009, aggravated assault in the 300 block of Holliday Street. He pleaded guilty to malicious wounding, and received a five-year suspended sentence on June 14. Charges of use of a firearm, discharging a firearm in public and shoot, stab, cut or wound stemming from that incident were not prosecuted. The special prosecutor who handled the case, Steve Edwards of Isle of Wight County, did not return a phone message Monday.

In addition to Lewis’ and Lee’s deaths, Lakeland students have been involved in other violent incidents in recent years. On Dec. 14, a number of Lakeland students were arrested after becoming involved in a fight after they got off the school bus in the 1400 block of Sierra Drive. They were identified only after a video of the fight was posted on video-sharing website YouTube.

On Dec. 8, 2005, 17-year-old Dwayne Langston, also a Lakeland student at the time, was shot and killed as he rode his bicycle home. The shooter was 14-year-old Steven Daniel Diaz, who later entered a guilty plea. He is serving a 99-year sentence for the crime.