Four individuals from Florida, after a four-day investigation, have been arrested in connection to the murder of 15-year-old Quashawn Burgess, Jr., who was shot and killed during the early morning hours Sept. 12.
The Polk County Sheriff’s Office announced the arrests of 20-year-old Rashan Harris, II, of Bartow, and 30-year-old Lilia Gonzalez, 23-year-old Jase Govia and 34-year-old Pierre Sauveur all of Winter Haven on Monday.
“I said during the beginning of this investigation that my detectives would not stop working until they found the suspect or suspects responsible for this young man’s murder — and they did exactly that,” Sheriff Grady Judd said. “What started as the attempted robbery of a female convicted felon illegally in possession of a stolen firearm ended in a fatal shooting. A series of really bad choices by everyone involved ended in a death and hopefully very long prison sentences for two others.”
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According to the investigation, deputies responded to a residence on Saint Paul Drive in Winter Haven around 2:30 a.m. on Sept. 12 of a young man found dead in the driveway.
First responders who arrived at the scene located and confirmed the victim, later identified as Burgess, was dead with a gunshot wound to his face.
The person who reported the discovery told police he saw the body after arriving to visit a friend.
Deputies canvassed the area and spoke to witnesses who reported hearing a “pop” noise at about 12:30 a.m., but the witnesses also said they thought the noise was just fireworks.
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Burgess was not identified until later that morning, and the sheriff’s office said he lived in Bartow with his mother.
When deputies notified Burgess’s mother of his death, she said she was unaware that her son was not home, adding she saw him on the couch at 10:30 p.m. the night before. She confirmed her son was not in his room and told deputies she did not know when he left or where he had gone.
As deputies contacted Burgess’s mother, additional investigators were searching for the neighborhood where the shooting took place to find videos of the time before, during and after the crime.
In one video obtained by law enforcement, deputies saw multiple people going in and out of the residence on Saint Paul Drive after the shooting, then leaving in a white car. Deputies executed a search warrant at the home and found two backpacks with several bags of marijuana.
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When detectives spoke to the resident, Govia, he allegedly admitted to selling marijuana out of the house, and on the evening of Sept. 11, he sold marijuana to three black males before leaving in a vehicle parked down the street waiting for him.
Detectives arrested Govia and charged him with maintaining a home where controlled substances are kept, possession of marijuana with intent to sell, possession of over 20 grams of marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia.
His associate, Sauveur, picked him up after the shooting and was arrested for drug charges as well.
As the investigation continued to unfold, detectives identified the vehicle seen on video arriving at the scene and leaving after the shooting, as belonging to a friend of Harris. After locating the vehicle at the owner’s house, detectives executed a search warrant and confirmed Harris used the car on Sept. 11 and during the timeframe of the murder.
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Detectives also located Harris and interviewed him. During the interview, Harris allegedly admitted to being at the scene with Burgess when the murder took place at about 12:30 a.m., adding that he fled without contacting authorities.
The sheriff’s office said Harris told detectives he picked up Burgess in Bartow to buy weed from the “weed man,” and after the purchase, while sitting in the driver’s seat, Harris “hollered” at a woman to come speak with him. The woman came over, got into the vehicle and closed the door, Harris told detectives.
Harris then said he saw the woman open the door and Burgess was trying to take her personal belongings before he and the woman got into an altercation. As Burgess and the woman, later identified as Gonzalez, continued to fight, Harris said he heard a gun fire and saw Burgess fall to the ground before Gonzalez walked away.
Harris checked on Burgess, saw he was dead and fled the scene, police said. He also described the woman as white with brown hair. Investigators learned the woman was Gonzalez, and she lived on the same street that the murder took place.
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During an interview with detectives, Gonzalez, a convicted felon, allegedly admitted to buying a loaded handgun from Harris, which was later discovered to be stolen. She met with Harris to buy the gun in Bartow, according to deputies, and Harris contacted her later that night to get back together with her, so he could give her more bullets that he forgot to give her during the purchase.
Gonzalez told police she was nervous when Harris arrived at the neighbor’s house and called her out, so she carried the gun in her pants pocket. While sitting in the car, she added, an unknown male, armed with a gun, opened the door and attempted to take her bag off her back before a struggle took place. After realizing she was being robbed, police said, she pulled the gun out of her pocket and shot Burgess. She also left after the shooting because she did not want to get in trouble, police said.
Harris was ultimately arrested and charged with second-degree murder, attempted armed robbery, conspiracy to commit armed robbery, dealing in stolen property, grand theft of a firearm, tampering with evidence, unlawful use of a two-way communication device, giving false information to police during a capital felony investigation, contributing to the delinquency of a minor and violation of probation.
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Gonzalez was charged with possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, dealing in stolen property, tampering with evidence, grand theft of a firearm, and numerous drug charges.
All four people who were arrested have extensive criminal histories, the sheriff’s office noted. Harris, for instance, was arrested and charged with 53 felonies and 26 misdemeanors between 2017 and 2022, which include armed robbery, battery of a law enforcement official, grand theft, resisting arrest, and dealing in stolen property. He was recently released from the Polk County Jail in January 2023 after being arrested in December 2020 on 60 charges.