A Bradenton teenager wanted for murder in connection to the shooting deaths of two of his friends remained at large as the victims’ families struggled with questions.
Joe S. Clerjuste, who turned 17 on Wednesday, is wanted for murder in connection to the deaths of Caleb Bowman, 18, and Kemundrey Pittmon, 18. The teens all knew each other, leaving detectives and families questioning what led to the shooting.
At about 12:20 a.m. Sunday, Bradenton police were called to Manatee Memorial Hospital after Bowman arrived with gunshot wounds. Bowman was not able to speak with police before he died, but detectives with the multi-agency Manatee Homicide Investigative Unit were able to piece together details in order to find the crime scene behind a Bradenton shopping center, according to sheriff’s office spokesman Dave Bristow.
When law enforcement arrived at the scene where they believe the shooting occurred, behind the Aaron’s rental store at 2114 Cortez Rd., they found Pittmon dead from apparent gunshot wounds. Within hours, detectives identified Clerjuste as the suspect and obtained a juvenile pickup order for his arrest.
Tineva Pittmon said she last saw her son Kemundrey just before he went out about 11 p.m. Saturday. She didn’t learn he had been killed until the next morning when detectives came to her door.
She said detectives told her Kemundrey was picked up to go to a party in Lakewood Ranch but they somehow ended up behind the shopping center. The detectives told Pittmon that was based on the teens’ text messages.
Pittmon was surprised because her son had left home on his bike and she was expecting him right back. But she said she was more surprised that detectives believe Clerjuste was the shooter.
“Joe, for a fact I know was Kemundrey’s friend,” Pittmon said. “At least, I thought he was Kemundrey’s friend.”
Pittmon said she was going to miss everything about her son.
Clerjuste had stayed at their home in the past, she said, when he didn’t have anywhere to live. She had also seen the two together many times since.
Pittman said she had never seen her son with Bowman, but her eldest son, Dwight Jackson Jr., said they had been friends as well.
Detectives are still unsure whether Clerjuste shot both of his friends, and are hoping the circumstances become more clear once they are able to speak with him.
Bowman’s older sisters, Amber and Katelyn, refused to believe that Clerjuste could have shot their younger brother, because the two had been life-long best friends and called each other brothers.
Katelyn Bowman had seen her brother earlier that evening when he came to get the keys to his home from her at the Chipotle where she is a manager, she said.
“We just know there is no way Joe killed him,” she said.
Both sisters said they were going to miss their brother, who was passionate about skateboarding, basketball and helping others, including the homeless.
“He was the biggest momma’s boy. He loved God. He went to church always with his mom,” Amber Bowman said. “He also loved to go fishing with his dad.”
Amber Bowman said her brother was also a great uncle to her four children.
Bowman and Pittmon both attended Bayshore High School last school year. Neither graduated from the school, but Pittmon got his diploma after successfully passing the GED test at Manatee Technical College.
All three teens had juvenile criminal histories, according to the sheriff’s office. Bowman was on probation for a possession of marijuana with intent to sell charge he pleaded no contest to a year ago.
Pittmon’s mother thought her son had overcome his struggles after finally getting his diploma. When colleges were scouting him to play football, her son avoided responding, she recalled, and it was then that she learned he was going to be a father again. His girlfriend, Daleela Lowe, had their son, Khalil, last October, but the infant died just days before Christmas.
His mother urged him to take the college offer and told him that she would make sure to help Lowe while he was at school. He accepted a football scholarship to Greenville University in Illinois and was set to leave for college in less than a month. Lowe, who declined to comment Monday, is expecting a daughter, Khaliya, in September.
Caleb Bowman was going to summer school to make up for the classes he missed as a result of his arrest and to earn his high school diploma, his sisters said.
“He wanted to open up his own business so he could take care of everyone,” Katelyn Bowman said.
Anyone with information on the whereabouts of Joe Clerjuste can call the sheriff’s office at 941-747-3011 or Crime Stoppers at 866-634-TIPS.
Follow Jessica De Leon on Twitter @JDeLeon1012.