Kisha Armstrong felt for a pulse in her 18-year-old son, Toriell Roberts, after he fell to the ground from a gunshot wound along North 14th Street on Sunday night.
As the four suspects ran away, she pleaded with Torriell. “Please stay with me,” she recalled as she cried at her home on Monday.
Toriell died there on the roadside at 8:30 p.m. — the first homicide in a number of street shootings in Fort Pierce this year.
Police don’t know if the latest shooting — adjacent to the Friendship Missionary Baptist Church on Avenue E — has any connection to the others. And so far no arrests have been made in the violence that Armstrong said was unexpected.
The 33-year-old mother and her Westwood High School senior were walking through a residential neighborhood, en route to her boyfriend’s house, when they passed a group of youths in the 600 block of North 14th Street.
She heard her son say, “It’s me, Toriell.” Then gunfire erupted.
Toriell yelled for his mother to run, but he was hit, taking a bullet from a handgun that could have hit her, she said at their home a mile from the shooting scene.
“He died saving me,” she said. She called 911, pleading for help. Her son was pronounced dead at Lawnwood Regional Medical Center and Heart Institute.
Police said they are looking for four suspects described as black males between the ages of 16 and 18 with brown eyes and black hair. One is said to have dreadlocks; the others are said to have box-cut style hair.
After the shooting, the suspects apparently ran east from 14th Street and Avenue E and officers were unable to find anyone in that area, according to police reports. People in the neighborhood either said they were not around at the time of the shooting or didn’t hear anything.
Now the family is trying to grasp why it happened.
“He loved everyone,” his mother said. He “was always respectable. He was all I lived for. He was in honor classes in school.” When he attended Gaines Academy, he was in a special art program.
“He was not with a gang,” Armstrong said. She said he would tell other youths, “I am not with nobody.
“Someone came and took him away from me,” the mother said. “I can’t sleep. I see him in my arms as I asked him to stay.”
Sandra Wilson, who is her mother and Roberts’ grandmother, said the gunfire and shootings in Fort Pierce have to stop. “Enough is enough.”
This is the city’s first homicide of 2012. Fort Pierce had 11 homicides in 2011, of which five occurred by the end of June.
An apparently unrelated shooting July 25led to the arrest of Kevin Smith, 31, of an unknown address, on four counts of attempted murder. In that shooting in the 1600 block of North 29th Street, Smith is alleged to have been a passenger in a Volkswagen Jetta from which shots were fired in front of the Madison Cay apartment complex, according to police reports. Four people were treated for nonlife-threatening injuries.
On the night of July 5, a 19-year-old was shot in the neck by an unknown assailant while watching his friends play basketball near the Boys Girls Clubs on 23rd Street, according to police reports.
Police quoted his friends as saying the victim was sitting down when they heard a loud pop about 10 a.m. and saw the victim grab his throat. He was treated at the Lawnwood Regional Medical Center and Heart Institute. Days before that, a 23-year-old bicyclist apparently was shot in the elbow about 11:45 p.m. while riding past a group of people on a porch on North 23rd Street. Through the end of June, the city had 12 people shot non-fatally, compared to 16 in the same period during 2011. During both April and May, there were five people shot per month.
Now Armstrong said her son will no longer come into her room, repeatedly saying, “ma, ma, ma.”
Funeral arrangements are pending.