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$4K reward now offered for information in shooting death of cell tower workers

Phillip Harley, Michael Thomas shot & killed while working overnight in tower

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – It’s been more than a month since two men were shot and killed while working on a cellphone tower on Jacksonville’s Westside.

Phillip Harley, 37, and Michael Thomas, 35, were gunned down in June while working overnight at a tower off Firestone Road and Morse Avenue, according to the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office.

First Coast Crime Stoppers has raised its award for new information to $4,000.

The families of both men told News4Jax they won't stop pushing for answers. They said the hardest part is not knowing what happened inside the property at the base of the cellphone tower and who could have done this.

According to police on-scene, Harley and Thomas got to work around 10:00 p.m. June 17 to do repair work on the tower and install batteries. Their bodies were found around 6:00 a.m. the next morning. Each man had been shot multiple times.

A small bouquet of white flowers has been left at the fence that leads to the building where the two men were found.

JSO has not said if an armed robbery led up to this. However, both families said they think that is the strongest possibility, saying that the two men traveled a lot and didn’t have many strong connections in the area.

Harley’s father and Thomas’s sister said these were both two good, hardworking men killed in cold blood while trying to earn a living.

"He was so full of life," Nichole Gordon said, describing her little brother.

Gordon said Thomas grew up around Jacksonville but traveled all over for his career in telecommunications. She said while his exterior was big and strong, his heart was gentle, and he would give you the shirt off his back.

“Just this great big teddy bear,” she said. “If there’s anything that you ever needed or wanted he was always there. Always there.”

Thomas never got the chance to marry or start a family of his own.

Harley leaves behind a wife and five children. His father, Larry, said celebrating Harley’s birthday and also Father’s Day without his son broke the family’s heart. They all live in Thomaston, Georgia, which is about four and half hours from where the shooting happened.

The father said he feels JSO is doing the best it can, but since the family isn’t local he worries there may be a lag in communication. He said police have not contacted them much since June.

“Anyone in Jacksonville, even here in Thomaston, Georgia who has the least bit thing, I would appreciate it,” Larry Harley pleaded. “If they would let the Jacksonville Sheriff’s [Office] know or Crime Stoppers or something, because even the least thing could be very important.”

JSO provided the following statement to News4Jax:

“This continues to be an active investigation. No new information has been provided at this time, though the reward through Crime Stoppers has been raised to $4,000. If any new information becomes available, we will pushed (sic.) it out.”

Until whoever did this is caught, Gordon said she carries a small urn of her brother's ashes with her every day.

“If anyone out there has any information please call the Jacksonville [Sheriff’s Office], because if it was your family you would want the same justice.”

When News4Jax first covered this story, a best friend and coworker of Phillip Harley, said he has always worried something like this could happen, because overnight hours on tower sites are inherently dangerous due to low visibility and poor security.

Both families said they have not heard from AT&T, which subcontracted them. A company spokesperson replied to News4Jax at the time of the shooting that this is a terrible tragedy and they were assisting police with their investigation.

“He was on his job and worked trying to support his family,” Larry Harley said. “And the whole thing is just senseless, you know?”


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