‘Hit the floor. Find a table,’ mother tells teen before deadly Club Blu shooting
FORT MYERS, Fla. – The mother of an 18-year-old star athlete said she told him to be safe before he was killed in cold blood after a summer teen party.
Stef’an Strawder decided to attend the bash at local nightclub Club Blu at the last minute, his friends said. He shared a Facebook status at 7:38 p.m. on Sunday, asking which of his friends would be attending.
Snapchat videos show a large group of kids dancing to club music inside Club Blu, located on Evans Avenue. The club is darkly lit, but the kids are wearing glow sticks as necklaces and around their wrists.
Minutes later they would “hit the floor,” scramble to “find a table” to hide underneath, then pour out of the front entrance of Club Blu.
Authorities have yet to confirm his exact time of death, but before the day came to an end 18-year-old Strawder would be dead, placing his life in the way of bullets to save another.
Strawder’s mother, Stephanie White, said she is still in a state of disbelief. Her son, like many of the other kids in Club Blu, was just trying to have fun.
“I can’t, it’s just too hard. I can’t believe he’s gone,” she said.
But White was not blind to the gun violence that stains the reputation of Dunbar, which is a predominantly black neighborhood that has seen the lives of children as young as 5 years old taken senselessly.
She said she drilled Strawder. Her instructions rattled of as if she were preparing him for battle.
“Before he left I told him to please look around. Make sure you know all the exits. If anything go off, hit the floor, find a table, put it up, and make sure that you stay there until everything’s over,” White said.
She was trying to find a balance between protecting her son, a rising high school senior, and letting him experience the freedom that comes with growing up. But even with her cautionary send off, the light that was Strawder’s life was snuffed out.
“It’s not fair. He was just going there to have a good time. I didn’t want him to go in the first place. But it happened out the door, so he couldn’t go nowhere,” she said.
The bullets that killed her son were taken to save another, White said.
“Somebody was in front of him and he pushed them away, and he got shot,” she said, becoming visibly saddened. “He’s a person that appreciates life and that I loved him for that.”
There were 70 to 80 teens in the club, according to security guards working the party. White’s son was one of two victims killed. The other was four years his junior: 14-year-old Sean Archilles, a student of Royal Palm Exceptional School.
Strawder had dreams of playing in the NBA. The star player was well on his way and preparing for a season of competitive offers from colleges, coaches said.
His death was a team loss, but also very personal, his former high school coach Dawn McNew said.
“Quite frankly, it’s like losing a son. He was basically the glue to this family,” she said.
As far as his mother goes, she is left to dream about the things her son gone too soon could’ve accomplished.
“A person that could have been in the pros. That could have been anything — football or basketball. That was one of his dreams that he was gonna make in the NBA,” White said.
Three people were detained Monday in connection to the Club Blu shooting: Derrick Church, 19, Demetrius O’Neal, 19, and Tajze Battle, 22. The Fort Myers Police Department said the shooting is not believed to be an act of terror. The motivation behind the shooting is unknown and police would not say whether it was gang-related. They are looking for witnesses to come forward.