Mother prepares for holiday season grieving a daughter who was murdered
The holiday season is when she misses her daughter the most, Melinda Hamilton said.
Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Day, her birthday in February, are days that hurt, she said.
“There was a piece missing,” Hamilton said as she recalled last year’s holidays without her daughter Shemeka Rodriguez. “Especially for her nieces and nephews. She was full of fun, crazy, single. She just enjoyed life.”
Rodriguez and Ramsez Hall, both 32, were shot to death while standing with a group of people outside a vacant residence in the 900 block of East Davis Avenue about 11 p.m. on June 9, 2017. Five others were wounded.
Using witness statements and crime scene evidence, detectives concluded that the attackers executed “a triangulated effort to ambush the victims,” an arrest warrant affidavit said.
Four shooters opened fire on a targeted group, according to the affidavit. The number of people who were in the group when the shooting took place is unclear.
Witnesses told officers that two groups of shooters flanked the victims on the right and left and opened fire. By most definitions it was a mass shooting, but the incident did not meet the FBI stipulation that a mass shooting consist of at least four deaths.
Hamilton said she is fighting as hard as she can to keep this from becoming an inactive investigation or a cold case, but is getting little help from the city.
As a long-time community organizer and president of the East Fort Worth Neighborhood Coalition, Hamilton has picked up litter from neighborhood parks, helped organize political meetings and counseled families in mourning for years.
She said she retreated from those activities after Rodriguez died.
Rodriguez’s death was caused by wounds to the head and chest, officials with the Tarrant County medical examiner’s office ruled. The second shooting victim, Hall, died from gunshot wounds to the chest.
Two months before the shooting, Rodriguez started dating a man who frequented the East Davis Avenue area and “would hang there with lots of his other friends and chill out,” Hamilton said. Rodriguez was on Davis Avenue with him when the shooting started, Hamilton guessed.
“More people would have been out there if the NBA finals had not been going on,” Hamilton said. “The city says the hearsay is her boyfriend was over there selling drugs, that she was selling drugs, but they can’t tell me who killed her. Even if she was over there with guys who were selling drugs that still doesn’t okay them to kill my daughter and for them to not find out who did it.”
Hamilton said Rodriguez was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Rodriguez died with THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, opioids and methamphetamine in her system, according to the medical examiner’s autopsy results. Testing found THC and opioids in Hall’s system, according to forensic toxicology results.
An arrest in the case
Police charged a potential suspect in the case, a man named Kailon Shaw, in March but released him from jail three months later and dropped the charges against him on the basis of prosecutorial discretion, according to information from the Tarrant County district clerk’s website. Prosecutors did not comment when asked to elaborate on why they dropped the charges because it is still an open investigation, said Samantha Jordan, a spokeswoman for the district attorney’s office.
Hamilton said she got a visit from a prosecutor during the summer who said there was not enough evidence to hold Shaw.
The Fort Worth Police Department also said it could not comment regarding the dismissed charges because the case is pending.
Shaw was already in jail when he was charged in the case. He was released from custody in June, according to court documents.
No additional arrests have been made since his arrest on March 16, according to police.
“At this time the detectives do not have the evidence necessary to make any arrests and they do not want to make any arrest before the evidence is there to do so,” said Christopher Britt, a police spokesman. “This allows them to present the best case possible to the district attorney as well as protecting the rights of anyone involved in this incident. We do ask that anyone with information about this contact us so we can bring a conclusion to this case as quickly as possible.”
The crime scene
After the shooting, crime scene technicians recovered 9 mm, 7.62-, 5.56- and .308-caliber shell casings from two different locations — one at the corner of New York and East Davis Avenues and one in the driveway of a vacant house in the 900 block of East Davis, the arrest warrant affidavit said.
Witnesses told officers they heard gunshots coming from both locations and that the two groups of shooters flanked the victims on the right and left and opened fire on them. Police found homes and vehicles damaged from the gunfire.
One witness said she saw four shooters emerge from two cars, a black four-door sedan and a small maroon car. The only person the witness could see clearly, a tall, thin, black man with a short haricut, shot in the direction of the victims and then drove away in the maroon car. The maroon car and the black four-door sedan were both seen traveling south on New York Avenue, the affidavit said.
Police obtained cellphone records that placed Shaw in the vicinity of the shooting that day in June and statements from witnesses tied him to a dark blue Chevrolet Tahoe and a black Chevrolet Malibu with weapons inside, according to his arrest warrant.
The two vehicles were found illegally parked in handicapped spaces, with the keys inside and the windows down. Inside the vehicles, police discovered four weapons — an AK-47 style rifle (7.62 caliber), Smith and Wesson M&P 15 rifle (5.56 caliber), Smith and Wesson MPIO rifle (.308 caliber), and a Beretta handgun (.40 caliber), the affidavit said.
Those guns were collected as evidence and at least one was test-fired for ballistics, the affidavit said.
“I requested that the .308 caliber rifle be tested and compared to the .308 shell casings collected from this offense,” Det. J.W. Galloway wrote. “The Fort Worth Crime Lab confirmed that the .308 rifle was a match to the shell casings from this offense.”
Based on the statements of a witness, investigators determined that Shaw was driving a blue Chevrolet Tahoe that belonged to someone else and a witness told a police officer that he saw guns in the Tahoe and described one as a big gun that was camouflage colored.
Family still hopes for answers
Hamilton said she has tried to keep up with Galloway, the detective working on the case, but he calls back less and less often.
“I’m going to have to conduct my own investigation, I guess,” Hamilton said. “Others in the neighborhood have told me not to worry, they’ll settle up with the shooters before everything is over.”
Hamilton said she believes the perception that drugs were being sold in the area is hindering the investigation. She noted that four shooters were involved and police have not arrested one.
“As I look back over the records and talk to some of the people who live over there on Davis Street, they have been trying to get that area cleaned out for years, for over 10 years,” Hamilton said. “Why haven’t they cleaned out that area?”
The south Fort Worth area has seen its share of violence, according to those living there.
A year-and-a-half after the slaying, residents on the block where the shooting took place said there are no longer large crowds of people hanging out there, but the threat of violence remains.
“There will always be a little something going on. It’ll never stop altogether,” said one man who declined to give his name. “It’s the south side. I don’t think the police can stop it all.”
Neighbors have differing ideas about whether increased police presence after the shooting cut down on violence in the area.
One neighbor, Laronda Bibbs, said she wants to believe that the shooters are ashamed of themselves for what they have done, but added that there was no way she can know that.
It is a hope, she said.
One man living about a block from where the shooting occurred, who identified himself only as Richard, said he believes the immediate area is less violent simply because of the work the bereaved mother did in the community.
The lawlessness has not disappeared, it has just moved farther away, but it remains close, Richard said.
“People just got paranoid,” Richard said. “People don’t care about the police being out here. You still have shootings out here. Not like that, but close.”
Hamilton said she passes by the location of her daughter’s killing often.
She said that like others she will be celebrating in the coming months, but there will be a cloud of sadness hanging over the celebrations.
“I’m hoping it gets solved,” she said. “All those people who were out there, someone knows something.”
Police say that no one has come forward with any new information, according to Hamilton.
Those with any information about the shooting are encouraged to call police at 817-392-4222.