JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A memorial grows in front of the Blind Rabbit restaurant in Riverside while police search for two men who gunned down a 20-year-old employee taking out the trash Wednesday night.
Police have only vague descriptions of two men seen running after the shooting.
Daniel Rowe, 20, was shot twice in the head about 10 p.m. in an alley behind the restaurant at the corner of King and College streets. He was transported to UF Health Jacksonville, where he died.
The father, Steven Rowe, is a chef at Kickbacks across the street, and ran as soon as he heard about the shooting. The wouldn't let him ride the the rescue unit, but as soon as he got to the hospital doctors told him his son had already been revived twice. He didn't want him to suffer any more.
"I was the first person to hold him when he was born and was holding his hand when his heart stopped." he said. "He would do anything for anybody. That's what he was doing last night. One of the guys at work was taking out the trash, and he offered to help, and it was just the wrong place at the wrong time. All I know, he was the greatest guy you could ever meet."
Daniel Rowe had two children, 4 years and 7 months old, and was engaged to be married. They were expecting a third child.
"He woke up every day to take care of his daughters and help his girlfriend take care of the kids," Steven Rowe said. "He had a heart of gold. He would do anything for anybody if they asked; (he) never questioned it."
Friends, families and customers brought flowers and left notes of remembrance and sympathy taped to Rowe's bicycle, which remained chained to a street sign in front of the restaurant.
Rowe's fiancee and his future mother-in-law stopped by to add their notes Thursday.
"I just told him that he is special to me and to my husband, and I will do the best we can to help Britney and the babies," said Desiree Saavedra, his fiancee's mother. "I left a note from his two girls, saying that they loved Daddy and that Britney and Daniel were forever in love."
Rowe's parents said he loved his two daughters and had another child on the way.
"He had become such a great man," his mother, Raelyn Rowe, said. "And I can only imagine, had he lived his life, how much greater he would have been."
"It's devastating. It's heart-wrenching," Steven Rowe said. "I've got two other kids; they now have to deal with the loss of a big brother. I have a teenage daughter in his room, sleeping with the tennis shoes he was wearing last night. She won't let them go because somebody took a brother away from her."
Friends have set up a GoFundMe memorial account for Rowe.
Restaurant management said the Blind Rabbit would remain closed through Thursday out of respect for Rowe. It planned to reopen 11:30 a.m. Friday.
Police investigation just beginning
Police said they are searching for the two people who fled the scene after the shooting. A helicopter circled the area for about an hour looking for the gunmen.
Witnesses at the scene are cooperating with investigators, although the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office said they do not have a description of the people who ran.
Police are looking into surveillance video from nearby businesses to gather more information.
The victim's father was full of sadness, but also anger. He had a very direct message for the shooters.
"Don't hide, don't run," Steven Rowe said. "Step up and own up for what you did."
News4Jax crime and safety analyst Gil Smith said this is the second such incident in the area within the past few months.
"What you may want to do is if you're coming out, come out with someone else," Smith said. "You know, the more people the better, because it's a crime of opportunity. If they see someone by themselves, they're more likely to try to attack or rob the person. If there's more than one person, there's a less chance of that."
City Councilman Jim Love's insurance office is directly across the street from where Rowe was killed. He said he was surprised that nobody saw anything and he hopes more witnesses will step forward soon. He is also seeing what can be done about the amount of light is in the busy business district at night.
"There are two street lights across the street. I want to make sure they are operational and functional," Love said.
Riverside residents are just surprised that somebody could be gunned down when so many people were in the area at the time.
"I think it's becoming all too common. (It's) getting out of control," Tricia Byers said . "I have a daughter I have dogs and I walk at night, and now I wonder if I should. I wonder if it's safe for me to be out there walking dogs without protection other than the dogs."
Anyone with information about the shooting is asked to call the Sheriff's Office at 904-630-0500 or Crime Stoppers at 866-845-TIPS. Callers can remain anonymous and be eligible for a reward of up to $3,000.