WSVN — After you are dead everybody says you were great. Tavares Bryant was the kind of person people adored when he was alive.
Jeannette Bryant, mother: "He had a friendly smile, and everybody loved him. He didn't bother no one."
The 16-year-old was a popular Northeast High School quarterback. A good kid with a great future.
Voneshia Thomas, sister: "Star quarterback, definitely star. Pro, pro NFL player, definitely all the way. That was his heart, that was his passion."
Then, 12 years ago, while standing on Sterling Road talking on the phone to his girlfriend, his life ended.
Detective Glenn Bukata, Broward Sheriff's Office: "His life was snuffed out for no reason."
Detective Bukata was at the crime scene that hot August night in 1996. He remembers interviewing the girlfriend Tavares was on the phone with.
Detective Glenn Bukata: "She was in conversation with Tavares, and the phone went dead. There was no conversation. She could not really even hear a gunshot."
Jeannette got the call to come to the Dania Laundromat where his body was covered with a yellow sheet.
Jeannette Bryant: "And I got in the car, and I was driving, and as I was driving I just kept saying, 'No, God, it's not my son. God, it's not my son. This is not my son. They got the wrong child. It's not my son.'"
It was her son, murdered at 2 a.m. and not a single witness.
Jeannette Bryant: "Over time, even to this day, I wonder why at a busy intersection like that, which is off Sterling Road and Southwest Fourth Avenue, that nobody saw anything, whether they be in a car or on foot or on a bicycle."
Detective Bukata has kept digging for 12 years, trying to find the killer. Tavares' family has hit the streets as well. Jeannette has concluded Tavares' old girlfriend might know something.
Jeannette Bryant: "From day one I said that and still say that until the day that I die, she knows more than what she's saying now."
His sister has heard street talk, that her brother's killing was a mistake.
Voneshia Thomas: "It was a group of Haitian guys so-called going around, you put a hit on a person. They're going around killing people for money, and supposedly my brother is a case of mistaken identity."
Patrick Fraser: "Detective Bukata often speaks to the family. He has checked out their tips, checked out other leads but nothing that would point to a killer, and so he waits and waits, not willing to give up."
Det. Glenn Bukata: "I'm persistent, and some of the cases that were unsolved recently have been solved by me, so there's always hope. I tell the family that one day I will come up with an answer."
In the meantime, friends and family hold candlelight services for Tavares, trying to find his killer, trying to put the spotlight on senseless street violence so other families don't suffer like them.
Jeannette Bryant: "That's something I would never wish on no parent, to have to bury their own child cause it's something that you'll never get over with. You never get over that. To know that I put my son in this ground, I'll never see him again, I'll never get to see that smile. I don't wish that on any parent, I really don't."
They keep searching because they truly believe someone knows something about Tavares' murder.
Voneshia Thomas: "You need to say something. I know somebody knows something. Somebody knows something, and they need to let it be known."
They know someone knows, and, 12 years later, detective Bukata knows someone knows.
Detective Glenn Bukata: "There's always hope. I tell the family that one day I will come up with an answer."
If you have the answer, even if you think it's not that important, if you know anything about the murder of Tavares Poppa Bryant on that August night in 1996, Broward Sheriff's detectives would appreciate a call.
If you have a loved one or a friend that was murdered, if you feel they have been forgotten, give us a call. Some cases might be old, but South Florida cops are still working them and are still Out for Justice.
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
Out for Justice MIAMI-DADE: 305-598-HELPBROWARD: 954-796-HELP