Update: Stef’An Strawder’s funeral will not be held at the Lehigh Senior High Gymnasium, Lehigh principal Jackie Corey said early Wednesday. Strawder’s family is deciding upon two other locations.
ESPN cameras flickered on in the corner of the Lehigh Senior High gymnasium on Tuesday.
The sports media outlet was there to tell the story of Stef’An Strawder, an emerging star with the Lightning basketball program who died Monday morning following a mass shooting at Fort Myers’ Club Blu. His story will be featured on the station’s flagship show SportsCenter in the coming days.
Strawder, 18, and 14-year-old Sean Archilles were killed while at least 17 others were injured, including Strawder’s 19-year-old sister, Sharrelle, who was shot through the leg.
Strawder was exiting the club when he was hit in the shoulder. He was transported to Lee Memorial Hospital, where he was later pronounced dead following emergency surgery.
“I still don’t know how to deal with it,” said BJ Edwards, who played with Strawder for one season at Lehigh in 2013-14. “I never had to lose someone that close to me. I still don’t understand it.”
Late Monday evening, Lehigh principal Jackie Corey received correspondence from ESPN reporter Mark Schwarz pitching Strawder’s story to a national audience.
She held a news conference earlier in the day asking for the community to erase the violence that has plagued the area and for the community to “step up and do something about it.”
Corey believed the interview would do much good for a healing family. Schwarz and his cameraman flew to Southwest Florida Tuesday morning and spent two hours at the school with members of the Lehigh basketball family.
“We made the calls we needed to make,” Corey said. “We coordinated it that quick.”
They set up by noon and the lights and camera rolled soon after.
Schwarz interviewed Lehigh Senior High coach Greg Coleman, who provided insight on Strawder’s love of basketball. Former Lightning coach Dawn McNew, who had resigned in March following the season, said “the sky was the limit” for her former player.
As a junior, Strawder averaged 15.6 points, 5.5 assists and 2.8 steals per game, pushing the Lightning to the Region 6A-3 playoffs. He was named one of three finalists for The News-Press Boys Basketball Player of the Year.
Edwards was asked what he would say if he were to see the shooter that killed Strawder.
“Why would you take his life?” he said. “How can you sleep at night?”
Schwarz spoke with Strawder’s closest friend at Lehigh, Jarvis Martin, and former teammate Emmitt Williams. He spoke to his mother, Stephanie White, who later said that she would try to find a big enough venue to hold her son’s funeral since her church, St. Mary’s Missionary Baptist Church, only held about 100 patrons.
Corey said she already was planning with the school district to coordinate Strawder’s funeral inside the Lehigh gymnasium. His funeral is tentatively planned for Saturday, Aug. 6.
Beyond that, Corey had plans to graduate Strawder at the end of next year with his senior class, and to retire his jersey after Martin vowed to play in it next season.
“No one’s ever going to wear that number again,” she said.
Strawder’s mother has seen a vast amount of goodwill spreading since the death of her son. White has been amazed by the number of people who cared for him.
“I knew that a lot of people knew my son,” she said. “But I never knew how much until now.”
Her niece, Alexis Strawder, started a GoFundMe page to help defray the cost of her cousin’s funeral. White said those donations would help family members attend the wake from out of state.
Will Prather, a friend of the family, said the city’s Victims Assistance Fund and the Southwest Florida Community Foundation would also provide money to help offset costs from Strawder’s funeral.
During the taping, ESPN asked Edwards if he would forgive Strawder’s killer?
“I’m a man of faith,” he said. “And God says if we don’t forgive, we won’t forgive ourselves. I have to forgive him. I do forgive him. I still have questions as to why. And we can’t go back now. I forgive him, but I don’t have to agree with it.”
Vigil for victims, to contemplate violence
Quality Life Center is holding a candlelight vigil Thursday to honor the victims of the Club Blu shooting and raise awareness about gun violence in Southwest Florida.
“We’re just trying to find different ways that we can show our support,” said Katrina Shanks, team coordinator at Quality Life.. “This isn’t just about last night.
“It’s definitely for healing and awareness and hopefully togetherness for the community.”
Everyone is welcome to join the vigil, Shanks said.
“People can come from outside of Dunbar (community in Fort Myers),” Shanks said. “It impacts everybody.”
The plan is to meet at 6::30 p.m. at Quality Life Center, 3210 Dr Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Shanks said. People can bring their own candles and “just be present,” she said. Donations of supplies, such as bottled water, from local businesses are also welcome. Need info? Call 334-2797