Miami Gardens - Opa-locka

Two years later, family awaits justice for Miami Gardens girl killed by stray bullet

Teddy bears and stuffed animals adorn a plaque beneath a tree planted in Tequila Forshee’s memory at Lester Brown Park in Miami Gardens.
Teddy bears and stuffed animals adorn a plaque beneath a tree planted in Tequila Forshee’s memory at Lester Brown Park in Miami Gardens. Miami Herald Staff

For two years, Tequila Forshee’s family has lived without closure. Relatives have watched as crime after crime is solved in Miami Gardens and across Miami-Dade County.

The Forshees wonder when their chance for resolution will come.

It’s been two years since the shooting death of Tequila, a 12-year-old girl who was sitting in her grandmother’s Miami Gardens home getting her hair done and preparing to start another year at Carol City Middle. In an instant, a bullet claimed her life.

Since Aug. 14, 2013, there have been no arrests and a consistent urging for the community to provide information.

“There’s never anything new in the case and, as a father, that’s hurting and upsetting,” Glenn Forshee said.

Forshee said that after Tequila’s death, he would check in weekly with Miami Gardens police detectives. But after consistent calls yielded no new updates, he stopped contacting the department so often.

“I used to call every Monday when it first happened, but then I started realizing I’m hurting myself and I’m setting my whole week up for failure,” Forshee said.

Immediately after Tequila’s death, Forshee and his family became active in the community and partnered with Miami Gardens on various events and outreach initiatives. He attended neighborhood meetings to discuss issues and to help build relationships between the police and residents.

Members of his family also started the Who’s Next? Foundation, an organization meant to combat gun violence and, hopefully, send a wake-up call to fellow residents about crime in the city and the need for more community involvement.

Forshee said he now somewhat regrets the organization’s name and its branding. Shirts were emblazoned with the “Who’s Next?” logo next to a picture of Tequila. He has since asked his children not to wear the shirts as they remind him of that tragic day.

The day she died, Tequila got her hair braided by her grandmother, Tawanda Brown, at a beauty salon inside the nearby Carol City Flea Market. When the shop closed at 7 p.m., Brown and her granddaughter left to finish up at home.

Later that night, shots were fired. Brown was hit in the leg, Tequila’s sister, Alize, was grazed by a bullet and Tequila was fatally shot in the head.

Miami Gardens Mayor Oliver Gilbert said the city is still “wounded” by the shooting.

“Two years ago, we were witness to probably one of the most senseless, savage acts of violence to ever hit the city,” Gilbert said. “My prayers will continually be with the Forshee family.”

Lack of arrests

Back in 2013, police did not confirm if the shooting was gang related, but Forshee is certain it was. He said police have identified a group of suspects, but he did not want to elaborate on the number or describe the individuals.

“They have suspects that they’re looking at that they’re 100 percent sure did it, the streets are 100 percent sure, but bringing it to justice is different,” Forshee said.

Forshee said the time without any action in the case and changes in the Miami Gardens police department in the past two years have led him to lose some faith in the police force.

“In our community, you don’t get too much justice when it comes to murders,” Forshee said.

The city has seen a decrease in its overall crime rate and homicides in the past two years, according to Florida Department of Law Enforcement data. In total, there were 36 homicides in 2013 and 2014 and 27 arrests.

There have also been multiple police chiefs in that span, with Police Chief Matthew Boyd and Deputy Chief Paul Miller stepping down within months of each other in late 2013 and early 2014 and the firing of Chief Stephen Johnson in February following his arrest in a prostitution sting. Interim Chief Antonio Brooklen currently heads the department.

Brooklen, who has four daughters, said he sympathizes with Forshee and has had conversations with Tequila’s grandfather, Glenn Forshee Sr., a bishop at Next Level Praise and Worship Center. The interim chief recognizes that the lack of any notable action in the case is disheartening for the family.

“There’s nothing that you can tell a father, outside of you catching someone, that’s going to put his family at peace,” Brooklen said.

The department has been able to make arrests in some recent high-profile cases, including the fatal shooting of Qualecia James who was pregnant at the time of her killing last year, but often not with the speed of other departments.

Brooklen credits an increased presence in the community with the progress they’ve made in other cases, but recognizes that more work needs to be done and the department needs assistance.

“In a lot of cases like this, individuals don’t know that if they have the smallest amount of information it can help break the case,” Brooklen said.

Earlier this month, two arrests were made in the fatal shootings of 10-year-old Marlon Eason and 16-year-old Richard Hallman in Miami back in March. Forshee said he can’t help wondering whether he and his family will be offered the same kind of solace.

“Our hearts go out to those victims because they were just as innocent as our daughter was, but it makes us question our police department here in Miami Gardens,” Forshee said.

Life without ‘Tee Tee’

The Forshee family has continued to adjust to life without the young girl who loved to draw and make personalized cards for birthdays and holidays. Forshee thinks about how Tequila would have enjoyed her eighth-grade prom, perhaps cheerleading for the local youth football team and preparing for high school. Instead, he said, the family has had to adjust and try to focus on the happy memories they made.

“We mourn together, we remember together, it’s a strong bond when it comes to ‘Tee Tee,’” Forshee said.

A major support for Forshee has been his girlfriend, Latoyia Peterson, his children and especially his youngest son, 5-year-old Gevarius, who he thinks shares a lot of Tequila’s personality.

Forshee said he still can’t help but feel the void in the family.

“Spending family time together with all the kids, it bothers me because I know Tequila’s missing,” Forshee said. “I don’t really like to look at new pictures of the family because I know ‘Tee Tee’ is missing.”

The family planned to light candles in her memory and spend time at the tree the city planted in her honor last year at Lester Brown Park. Forshee recently moved into a new home not far from the park and said he plans to adorn the house with pictures of his lost “princess.”

“Her joy, her love, her forgiveness — I just miss that so much,” Forshee said.

In the meantime, he still hopes and prays for justice and focuses on providing for his four children and not having to answer “who’s next?” anytime soon.

“It’s a burden to have to live knowing that the killers of your daughter are amongst you,” Forshee said.

Miami Gardens police ask that anyone with information call Miami-Dade Crime Stoppers at 305-471-8477. A tip that leads to an arrest is eligible for a $30,000 reward.