POLK COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) — Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd called on the public for information after a 15-year-old who may have been a gang member was found shot dead Tuesday morning in a driveway near Winter Haven.
The sheriff said deputies received a 911 call around 2:30 a.m. after a boy was found dead on a driveway on St. Paul Drive.
Judd said one of the witnesses got off of work and was staying with a friend. She pulled into the home’s driveway on St. Paul Drive and called her friend to tell her there was a person lying in the driveway.
Judd identified the 15-year-old as Quashawn Burgess Jr. with permission from his mother to help with the investigation.
His mother went to bed at 10 p.m. with an infant, and Burgess was sitting on the couch. When she woke up at 3 a.m. to tend to the baby, she noticed Burgess was not on the couch and assumed he went to bed, according to Judd.
His mother said he was a good kid, but as he got older he went down the wrong path and began getting into trouble, Judd said. He was on probation for a burglary charge that was reduced to trespassing.
Judd said Burgess was violating his probation because he was supposed to be enrolled in school but wasn’t going.
“Here’s a good kid, and the streets had turned him into a gangster,” Judd said. “But his mom still loved him and he still loved his mom. He didn’t deserve to die.”
Judd said Burgess’ mother is a good person who was trying her best. He added that there’s help available to parents who are struggling with their children who may be going down the wrong path.
“This has to stop, and we as adults in this community have to stop it, and it starts at home,” he said. “We can’t manage them in school, we can’t give them an opportunity to do better if they’re not in school.”
Burgess had been arrested twice, both since May 2023, Judd said.
“I’d rather them be alive in jail than across the street in the medical examiner’s office, dead like Quashawn is right now,” Judd said.
Investigators believe that whoever shot Burgess knew him. It’s unknown what he was doing roaming around at that time of the day.
“We know right now there’s someone out there thinking about retaliation. Don’t do it,” Judd said. “Because you may be a kid thinking I’ve got to retaliate, well understand we’re going to find you too if you do, and you’re going to spend the rest of your life in prison.
“No more McDonald’s, no more Happy Meals, no Walmart trips, no going to Disney, no growing up, no having your favorite car. We’re going to lock you up,” Judd added.
Judd said the violence is being encouraged by social media.
“They’re listening to this gangster rap, they’re watching these videos, they’re making their own videos,” he said. “It’s cool to do. It’s not cool to die. Death is forever. And cool warms up real quick in the morning. When the beer’s warm, it’s no more fun.”
Judd said it’s time for communities across the state and nation to step up and address the issue.
“They don’t show you the last chapter of the book,” Judd said. “The last chapter, one of you is dead and the other is life in prison.”
Neighbors tell 8 On Your Side the side of the street where the boy was found sees more police activity than the opposite side, but with all the thunderstorms last night, neighbors didn’t hear anything.
“They need to stop,” said Akeisha Drayton, who lives near the crime scene. “They need to put the guns down. They just need to quit. They just need to stop.”
Drayton said she saw the police activity when she left for work Tuesday morning.
She hopes parents will keep an extra close eye on their children.
“Make sure they’re going to school, make sure they’re not dropping out,” she said. “It’s just, most of the ones that’s in these gangs, they dropped out of school, their parents can’t do nothing with them and they just get out of control.”