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Killing outside Fort Myers school sparks fear, frustration

Man is shot dead in the parking lot of Apostolic Revival Center and Christian School in Fort Myers.

Jan. 8, 2013
Fort Myers shooting leaves 1 dead
Fort Myers shooting leaves 1 dead: Fort Myers police are investigating the first homicide of 2013. Video by Guy Tubbs/
Fort Myers Police Department investigators respond to the scene of a fatal shooting Monday. / The News-Press
A faculty member with the Apostolic Revival Center Christian School in Fort Myers walks a student from the main building Monday after police located a male victim deceased in the parking lot. / Guy Tubbs/

Report a tip

Anyone with information regarding Monday’s homicide or any other crime is asked to call the Fort Myers Police Department at 321-7700, Crime Stoppers at 1-800-780-TIPS or text message CRIMES (274637) keyword FMPD. Tipsters can remain anonymous.

View First Fort Myers Shooting of 2013 in a larger map


Crying children hid under their desks, cowering from the sound of bullets crackling in the air Monday morning.

Fort Myers’ first homicide of 2013 was being committed on Barden Street in the Dunbar neighborhood, and just yards away from the Apostolic Revival Center and Christian School.

It was only the seventh day of the new year and Fort Myers Police Chief Doug Baker arrived at the crime scene expressing frustration about the brazen nature of this homicide, and the neighbors who continue to protect violent criminals from police.

“It’s not happening two or three o’clock in the morning or four o’clock in the morning,” he said. “This is a parking lot of a church and a school with small kids. And it’s extremely frustrating.”

Last year Fort Myers saw 24 homicides, the most in at least 20 years.

Alvis Churchwell, a fifth-grader at the school, said he heard five shots, which scared his classmates.

“They started crying,” Churchwell said, as he swung his lunch box back and forth. “Teachers told me to get under the desk.”

Police responded just before 11 a.m. No students were injured and it does not appear any children were in the parking lot to witness the shooting, Baker said.

Baker said it appeared the victim, whom police had not identified Monday night , was targeted by the shooter. The suspect was at large Monday night. The police have not released a suspect description or details about the crime.

The Apostolic Revival Center and Christian School is a coed, private school that teaches preschool through fifth grade, according to a state database on private schools. It is Pentecostal affiliated.

Principal Mary Hopson, did not return calls for comment Monday.

Alvis’ grandmother, Mazilene Woody, said she learned what happened through a friend’s phone call. All she could think about was last month’s mass shooting of elementary school students in Connecticut, which killed 28 people, including 20 children.

“Where’s my grandchild?” she said was her first thought. “I was very upset, very upset — trying to be calm and say a prayer at the same time.”

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After the Connecticut shooting, Mazilene said she talked with her grandson about how to duck down and stay safe in such a situation. The teachers at the Apostolic Revival Center and Christian School also practiced drills to prepare for such a scenario, Alvis said.

“We were ready for the thing because we knew it was going to happen,” Alvis said. “We were prepared.”

Parents were notified of the shooting and many came to pick up their children. No other nearby schools were put on lock down.

Ruthie Ward, who said she is best friends with the homicide victim’s sister, said the victim was dropping off his two children at the day care affiliated with the school when he was killed.

Ward pointed out a small girl being led from the school by a faculty member and identified the girl as the victim’s daughter. The girl was wearing a uniform with white, knee-high socks and a colorful backpack.

Sam Gene, 42, heard four shots and rushed to the school from his home in Harlem Lakes, a few blocks away.

His 4-year-old niece attends the school. Once he heard the shots, Gene's first thought was for the child's safety.

Gene said he assumes Monday’s homicide was motivated by revenge, like so many others in the area.

"These boys (are) crazy around here," he said.

Woody said she feels her grandson is safe at the school, despite the shooting. The door leading into the school is always locked and visitors have to sign in and out and show identification.

Charles Dailey, principal of the nearby Dunbar Community School, said his heart goes out to the family of the man killed Monday.

“My heart is filled with so much pain right now,” he said.

Dunbar Community School, an adult education facility that offers courses including GED, English as a second language and computer classes, employs a full-time security guard, Dailey said. But the school has never had a violent incident.

Enrollment at the school has gone up by 25-30 percent over the past year, which Dailey hopes is a sign that more people in the neighborhood are turning to education instead of violence.

Shirley Chapman, principal of Lee Charter Academy, said she is confident her school does all it can to protect its students from violence. After the Connecticut shooting, the school began requiring teachers and volunteers to wear badges to prove they belong on the property. Lee Charter recently moved from Dunbar to Edgewood Avenue and Tarpon Street, off Palm Beach Boulevard, for financial reasons, Chapman said.

“It’s just a sad omen for what’s been happening across the nation,” Chapman said of Monday’s shooting. “You go from day to day wondering what’s going to be next.”

Connect with this reporter: Marisa Kendall NP (Facebook), @MarisaKendall (Twitter).
Staff writer Michael Braun contributed to this story.

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