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Jiatarious 'Jo-Jo' Brunson was a sophomore standout running back for the Fort Myers Green Wave. He was killed in a double homicide shooting Saturday night at the Renaissance Preserve housing development off Michigan Link.
Jiatarious 'Jo-Jo' Brunson was a sophomore standout running back for the Fort Myers Green Wave. He was killed in a double homicide shooting Saturday night at the Renaissance Preserve housing development off Michigan Link. / news-press.com file photo
Jiatarious 'Jo Jo' Brunson during 2012 football season / Special to news-press.com/Cindy Hendry
Jiatarious 'Jo Jo' Brunson / Special to news-press.com/Cindy Hendry

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A Fort Myers High School graduate and self-described team mother said the shooting death Saturday night of Jiatarious “JoJo” Brunson, a sophomore running back on the Green Wave football team, was, she hoped, a case of wrong place and wrong time.

Brunson, 17, and Paul Baldwin, 20, both of Fort Myers, were found shot to death Saturday night in the Renaissance Preserve public housing development.

There was little other information available from police.

The deaths are the fourth and fifth homicides in Fort Myers this year. The last such death was the Feb. 23 shooting death of Immokalee High School sophomore Kanasha Isaac, 16, at the Fort Myers Ale House.

“To see this happen in my town, aggravates me, it frustrates me as a mother, as a parent,” said Cyndi Hendry, describing herself as a team mother and a photographer. She is a 1978 graduate of Fort Myers High School and daughter Joy is a Green Wave team trainer.

Hendry hopes this homicide is the last straw for Fort Myers and gets people to come forward.

“Sometimes we don’t tell our kids that enough, and that probably would be the first thing I’d say is that I love him and he was worth something and hopefully for this loss we can gain the ability to catch these guys and bring them to justice,” she said.

Baldwin and Brunson were found with gunshot wounds shortly after 11:30 p.m. at the housing development. They were taken to Lee Memorial Hospital where they were pronounced dead.

Brunson, Hendry said, was a kindhearted individual fondly called JoJo by everyone.

“He was a great kid, he was little and mighty ... and every time I went to take his picture he would always have a smile for me and when I spoke to him it was ‘yes ma’am,’ ‘no ma’am.’ Very respectful, very kind,” she said.

Hendry said he was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.

“I’m hoping he was just an innocent bystander,” she said.

Sam Siriani Jr., Green Wave head football coach, said he was up all night Saturday communicating Brunson’s death to team members and was to meet with the team today.

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Siriani declined further comment, deferring to Fort Myers High School Principal Dave LaRusa, who was scheduled to release a statement this morning at the high school.

Detectives, other police and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement were on the scene for about six hours questioning family members and neighbors. Further details were not available, police said.

Baldwin had been shot and injured in a September 2012 drive-by shooting on Davis Court in Dunbar. Baldwin, then 19, and Tommy Williams, then 18, both suffered non-life-threatening injuries in that shooting and were identified at the time by Fort Myers police as being as members of the local rap group the Lake Boyz.

In the 2012 shooting, a third man, Jamaris Williams, 19, also said to be a Lake Boyz member, died.

The Lake Boyz group has posted several videos on YouTube since 2011 showing various members armed with guns and rapping about violence.

Some of the group’s locally filmed videos include “Yellow Tape, Black Bags, Toe Tags,” “Bout Dat” and “Paper Chase,” which got the attention of FMPD, because members were on camera with guns, including an assault rifle.

A police spokeswoman, Shelly Flynn, said in 2012 that the shooting occurred near where one of the group’s videos was shot.

Chief Doug Baker, at the time of the 2012 shooting, raised a common sentiment after what was then the 18th homicide in FMPD’s jurisdiction.

“Yes, we need people to come forward,” he said. “It’s a witness issue. Half to three-fourths of our problem is not having people come forward.”

Baker said it’s not surprising violence has followed individuals who have been portraying violence in their music videos.

Jamaris Williams had had four run-ins with the law in 2012. The only felony was when he was charged Feb. 6 with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon without intent to kill. That charged stemmed from his allegedly pointing a gun at another man during an altercation.

FMPD is asking anyone with information on Saturday night’s shooting to call them at 321-7700, Crime Stoppers at 1-800-780-TIPS or text message C-R-I-M-E-S (274637) Keyword FMPD. Tipsters can remain anonymous.

Connect with this reporter: MichaelBraunNP (Facebook) @MichaelBraunNP (Twitter). News-Press partner WinkNews contributed to the story.

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