3 youths recovering after Lakeland shooting

LAKELAND – The last of three juveniles wounded in the May 27 shooting in Lakeland was released from hospital care on Saturday. All are expected to make a full recovery, according to Shelby County Sheriff’s Office Public Information Officer, Earle Farrell.

The victims’ names were not released because of their ages.

The shooting happened at a Sweet 16 party for a woman’s goddaughter at the Oakwood Subdivision’s neighborhood clubhouse on Matwood Oak Drive. Four young black men got angry and argued with the honoree’s grandfather when he blocked them at the door. Then they left.

A few minutes later is when witnesses heard shots in the area.

The grandfather told officers that he and his son were working the front door and deciding who to admit. He said the four “looked too ghetto.”

The first officer on scene found two of the victims, black male juveniles, lying on the bathroom floor of the clubhouse with gunshot wounds. One was shot in the lower left leg, and the other was shot in the lower back just to the left of his spine. Both were conscious and talking.

Two of the victims said they were sitting in the backseat of a car when the shots rang out. Detectives had their car, a black Dodge Dart, towed away for crime scene processing.

About 10 minutes later another black male juvenile walked up, saying he had also been shot. A deputy observed an entry wound to his buttocks area but didn’t see an exit wound.

One other teen (race not specified in the SCSO report) was later reported injured while fleeing the scene. He said he jumped over a golf cart and hit a parked car when he heard the gunshots. When he fell, he injured his right hip, right elbow and right side of one hand.

During the investigation, officers found one gunshot hole on a front window of the clubhouse and another near the ceiling inside. They recovered about 15 spent shell casings on Gillespie Oak Drive in front of the clubhouse and about 12 on Melwood Oak Drive behind the building.

Witness Paul Westblade said he was in his home’s front yard when he saw a white car, possibly an Infiniti, drive by and turn around. Then he heard the shots coming from that vehicle toward the clubhouse. He provided the tag number to officers.

One deputy identified a possible suspect vehicle on Interstate 40, westbound at the Whitten exit. It was a Chrysler 200. A detective had the vehicle towed away for processing.

The case remains under active investigation.

Woman files harassment complaint

While authorities chase leads about the original shootings, the woman who rented the clubhouse filed a related complaint on May 29, alleging intimidation and harassment. She said she’s feeling pressure to move.

She said her social media account information has been shared across various social media sites since the shooting.

The woman cited condemning posts she read about herself in a private Facebook page for the neighborhood. She said she fears retaliation for the shootings, and her juvenile son is afraid to play outside for fear of being bullied.

On public Facebook pages for the city, several Lakeland and neighborhood residents have varied between saying the woman owes the neighborhood answers for hosting a party that attracted shooters vs. saying she’s not responsible for someone else’s violent acts.

One Facebook post said about her, “Put them out on there so everyone knows. Maybe if they have enough pressure on them from the neighborhood they will move.”

Lakeland Mayor Wyatt Bunker has been on record questioning why the party had “security” at the door and has said that gang members from outside of Lakeland did the shooting. An SCSO spokesman said they have no information to date that indicates gang affiliations or the shooters’ hometowns.

The woman who rented the clubhouse said she is afraid that widespread publication of her name and unproven allegations related to the shooting will bring more harassment, possible threats and untrue association of her and her family with “gang members.”

CAROLYN BAHM is the editor of The Bartlett Express. Contact her at (901) 433-9138 or via email to carolyn.bahm@journalinc.com.