TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – There is now a bench dedicated to LaMaria Smith’s 21-year-old daughter Savannah Mathis at Julian B. Lane Park.
“She’s gone forever,” Smith said, “Once they’re gone, they’re not coming back.”
“People don’t realize when you pull that trigger, you’re hurting families. You’re hurting siblings,” Smith said. “Our life will never be the same.”
In the past two weeks, Tampa police have investigated multiple shootings, including two involving teen victims.
Tampa police are searching for one suspect and they’re trying to identify a second from the early morning shooting of seven people outside the Lit Cigar and Martini Lounge downtown on Oct. 9. Police said a 30-year-old man visiting from California was killed.
On Wednesday, Chief Mary O’Connor announced police arrested a 17-year-old boy for shooting a 16-year-old girl in the back last week near Robinson High School.
“It’s even more hard of hearing these stories are not stopping,” Smith said.
News Channel 8 spoke with Smith across from the McDonald’s on Armenia Avenue, where police said they found a 16-year-old boy shot dead after an exchange of gunfire Tuesday night.
“And next to him is a firearm in the parking lot,” O’Connor said. “Another child with a gun, deceased.”
O’Connor said detectives are looking for any security camera video near the McDonald’s to try and identify a car involved. She also said the victim is a suspect in an unrelated armed robbery.
Since swearing in as Tampa’s top cop in March, O’Connor has hosted community forums in neighborhoods that are hot spots for shootings.
A TPD spokesperson said she’s also organized a workshop with faith-based leaders to amplify her message of stopping gun violence.
In June, TPD recovered more than 1,000 firearms at a gun buyback.
“Tampa PD has zero tolerance for gun violence in this city, zero,” O’Connor said. “If you commit a crime with a gun in the city of Tampa, we are going to find you and we’re going to arrest you.”
8 On Your Side has requested year-to-year gun violence statistics from Tampa Police. A TPD spokesperson said that the request could not be completed by Wednesday evening.
Smith lives every day with the pain of gun violence. She is echoing the chief’s message that parents must play a role in keeping guns out of their children’s hands.
“You have to set an example in front of these kids,” Smith said. “You have to be in their business. There ain’t no such thing as mind your business, they are your business.”