PALMETTO, Fla. (WFLA) – Ricardo Garcia of Palmetto is facing a first-degree murder charge in the 2014 shooting death of Javare Thomas.
Palmetto police spent the last several years investigating the case and obtained an arrested warrant for Garcia about three weeks ago. He turned himself in on Monday.
“Over the years, especially his mom, has kept in touch with us and we have kept in touch with her and we almost feel that there was a personal relationship there,” said Palmetto Police Chief Scott Tyler. “To be able to finally close this case with an arrest, it is a great feeling and you know, this is all for his family and friends,” he continued.
The shooting happened in the early morning hours of March 22, 2014. The Hall Nightclub in Palmetto had just closed and police say a fight broke out.
According to police, Thomas and his friends were driving away from the club when the driver of a black pick-up truck pulled up next to them and fired multiple shots. One of the shots hit Thomas in the head, killing him.
Palmetto investigators learned Garcia was involved in a fight with another individual at the night club. When Garcia caught up with the vehicle the Thomas was riding in, he mistook it as the vehicle occupied by the person he had just been in a fight with, police say.
Thomas was an innocent victim.
Chief Tyler says an anonymous tip following a news conference a few years ago helped investigators find probable cause.
“It was a tip from the community that helped. Again, it was an anonymous tip, so it is nobody that we can actually put on the stand but, when we get tips like that that verify the facts that we have, and the theory that we have, and that we are looking at the right circumstances and the right people, it really is helpful,” said Chief Tyler.
His mother hadn’t given up hope that her son’s killer would be brought to justice. During a 2019 news conference, she admitted it had been a tough several years.
“It has been difficult for me as a mom to live, to carry on….This was my hero. This was my king, this was my soul,” Tonya Thomas said during that 2019 news conference. “I hold my head up with dignity and pride knowing that this is what my son will want me to do to live to fight, not give up hope.”
Thomas would have turned 34 years old on April 18.
Garcia is being held in the Manatee County Jail without bond. Court records show the 28-year-old was arrested in 2013 for possession of marijuana and illegally carrying a concealed firearm.
Despite the arrest, Palmetto Police are still asking the public for information on the case.
“We know there are people that have direct information about this case and we just urge them to do the right thing and come forward. If not for justice, for the victims families,” said Chief Tyler.