Altwanna Kizer pictured with his son, Demarco Powell.
Social media picture of 17-year-old Damarco Powell holding a gun and flashing a gang symbol. Powell was found shot to death on Friday, and Lakeland Police are concerned of growing gang activity in the area.
Lakeland, Florida -- Two 16-year-olds have been arrested in the murder of 17-year-old Damarco Powell of Lakeland. Assistant Police Chief Larry Giddens says Powell's murder and the arrests are part of a larger gang problem.
"Everybody loses here. There's no winner," notes the Lakeland Police Department's interim police chief.
Giddens says the gang violence across the country and in Lakeland is terribly sad.
On Tuesday morning, he explained to the media that it cost Powell his life last Friday night. The teen was shot in the back of the head and left to die in a wooded area near the corner of 8th Street West and Atline Road in Lakeland.
"This is senseless violence and its got to stop," Giddens says.
Tiffany Powell Humphries reported her son Damarco missing when he didn't come home Friday night. Investigators have learned two teenagers in a gang sent each other text messages saying Powell "needed to be plucked." They feared Powell was going to set them up.
Altwanna Kizer is Damarco's heartbroken father and he's defending his son's Facebook pictures saying, though he lives out of town, he warned his son of the message the photos send. He says his son was just trying to fit in and wasn't in a gang.
"Me and his mom didn't raise him that way, you know, and he understood that. He was supposed to erase that. I guess he never had a chance because his life was cut short."
Kizer adds, "As far as gang activity - he wasn't involved in no gang activity - I'm sorry but he wasn't."
He says what's worse is knowing the two suspects are not only teens, but they were his son's friends and even hung out and ate at his son's home. He says the teens were people they trusted.
Giddens says teenagers and guns are a dangerous combination, and the violent gang activity puts everyone in danger. He admits the police department needs everyone's help with the problem.
"The community has got to be involved in the lives of their children. Families have got to take an active interest in what their children are doing. That's the biggest preventive tool that we can have."
Meanwhile, Lakeland police say they have long since stepped up patrols in areas where there's known gang activity and, just last night, they held a community meeting about the problem. On Tuesday, Mayor Howard Wiggs called for volunteers to join a new gang task force to come up with solutions.
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While Kizer and his family finalizes funeral arrangements he's praising Lakeland's police department for the quick arrests, but after burying another son with cancer, he wants Damarco's death to be an important reminder.
"What I need to say to the young people is put the guns down. It's a better way. Sometimes talking or just walking away is a better way."
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