Family believes race played a part in shooting death of West Nassau High football player

Trent Fort’s family still seeking answers after 16-year-old’s death

Three and a half months after a West Nassau High School football player was shot and killed, his family is still desperately seeking answers.

Trent Fort, 16, was fatally shot in late February in Callahan. Multiple people were detained at the time of the shooting, though no one has been charged so far.

Nassau County detectives continue to investigate the death of the teen, who loved ones remember for his love of life and sense of humor.

“When is justice going to happen? When will charges be filed? When does this happen for Trent? Because his life mattered. Trent’s life mattered. And he was a good kid. He should not have died the way he died," said Paige Hall, Fort’s mother.

Thareus Fort, the teen’s father, said it has been hard to move forward without charges.

“You can’t sleep, you can’t eat, you have your emotion and your mind is all over the place,” he said. “Why is our son gone? Who is really involved? And they haven’t gave us that yet."

A spokesperson for the Nassau County Sheriff’s Office told News4Jax they have no new releasable information and they’re still working closely with the State Attorney’s Office, which has yet to release its disposition report.

John Phillips, the family’s attorney, said the Sheriff’s Office told him it’s waiting to get it right.

“They don’t want to file because, once they file, the defendants’ speedy trial right starts,” Phillips said. “And they want to have it right before right now. The problem is it’s been four months.”

At the time of the shooting, three teens were taken into custody. They were questioned and released. The Sheriff’s Office never identified them, but the family and Phillips said the suspected shooter also went to West Nassau High.

The family believes race played a part in the death of their son, who was biracial. Phillips compared Fort’s case to other high-profile cases such as the deaths of Jordan Davis and Ahmaud Arbery.

“So, this wasn’t like Jordan Davis where race was the reason for the death or Ahmaud Arbery where they were chasing somebody down because he was an African American,” Phillips said. “But clearly, we know that there was a racist component with the young man who shot him."

Hall said she originally did not want to believe race played a part in her son’s death.

“At first, I didn’t want to believe that,” Hall said. “Because I believe that the community that we live in -- Trent was loved by so many. He had over 2,000 people that came to his funeral. After some of the comments of the parents that were involved of these children, the parents, after some of the comments, I do, I really do. And it breaks my heart, but, yeah, I do.”

Trent Fort

Phillips said there is potential for a civil suit against the suspects and their families.

According to the Sheriff’s Office, Fort was in a car with four other teenagers stopped at a stop sign in the Spring Lake Estates neighborhood off Lem Turner Road about 4:30 p.m. Feb. 24 when he got into an argument during a drug deal and was shot in the chest.

One of the other teens called 911 as they drove Fort to West Nassau High -- about 8 minutes away -- to meet a rescue unit. He was rushed to UF Health in Jacksonville, where he later died.

Fort’s family maintains he was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Shortly after the shooting, Undersheriff Roy Henderson said the 17-year-old shooter has a prior gun charge and that he could face charges of violation of probation and possession of a firearm of a delinquent minor and then, eventually, could face a charge of second-degree murder.

Anyone with information about the shooting is asked to contact Detective Mark Murdock at 904-548-4067.


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