November 21, 2022 | By Kathy Waterman
This story is part of a collaborative project between Project: Cold Case and a University of North Florida Journalism class.
Tavares Bryant was a loving son, brother, nephew, uncle, and friend who will never be forgotten. In his short 16 years of life, he impacted people in many ways that will last a lifetime. He grew up in the small town of Dania, Florida, just south of Fort Lauderdale. Tavares loved riding and fixing bicycles, but he most importantly loved football. He was a star quarterback at South Broward High School.
On August 10, 1996, Tavares was at a laundromat close to the residence he shared with his sister Lisa. He was sitting down on his bicycle using the pay phone to call his girlfriend when gunshots were fired, and he was killed. Tavares and his sister Lisa shared an apartment that was close to Sam’s Coin Laundry, where the murder occurred. Lisa remembers Tavares telling her that he would be right back and him walking out of the door and never returning. It was approximately 2 a.m. Lisa, who was ill and pregnant at the time, fell asleep. She was awakened by a loud banging on her door. “I remember opening the door to our neighborhood friend and the only thing he told me (was that) Tavares has been shot,” said Lisa. When Tavares’s mother got the news that her son had been shot she didn’t believe it. She remembers saying, over and over, “Not my son, not my son.” His mother recalls arriving at the scene and seeing her son’s body still in the street, not covered up. She remembers someone shouting, “That’s his mother! Cover him up!” His sister, Voneshia, says people told her that her mother jumped out of the car, with the vehicle still in drive, and someone had to get the car before it rolled onto the train tracks. Tavares’s Aunt Muriel was not there when the tragic incident occurred; she remembers her friend picking her up from the airport and silently being in the car along with her sister Jeanette.
His mother, Jeanette, had three children, with Tavares being the only boy. His smile is something that Jeanette will never forget; he had the biggest dimples. When his friends and family saw Tavares, they would refer to his smile as “The Electric Smile”. His family shared many fond memories that they will never forget, from wrestling with his little sister Voneshia to fishing with his mom Jeanette. Memories their family holds dear to their hearts. Jeanette recalls when Tavares would bring his friends over and she would cook for them while they shared the details about their day.
The family always looked forward to the holidays, and Tavares especially loved eating his mother’s home-cooked meals. Tavares’ mother believes that Thanksgiving and Christmas were his favorite holidays because there was plenty of food to eat. Tavares’ favorite dish was potato salad with no onions; his mother always made sure to have enough for him. Lisa and Voneshia, both remember their mother having to cook individual sweet potato pies because the children would brawl over who got the most servings. Every year when Christmas came around Tavares always had a brand-new bicycle waiting for him, Voneshia stated, “It was another reason he loved the Holidays”.
According to his family, Tavares was a person of great strength. He was a generous and caring young adult with a strong moral character. He loved helping others. He often helped his friends when they had issues with their bicycles and was very proud of his mechanical work. If Tavares was here today, he would be a retired NFL player, said his sister Voneshia. That’s the kind of gift he had while growing up. Everyone knew he would make it far. According to his best friend Dante, “Tavares was a special kind of person; you just knew that he was a great guy all around.”
The loss of Tavares still haunts the family. It’s difficult for them to pass the laundromat. They hold onto the possibility of the truth coming out. Someone, they believe, knows what happened that night. The family also holds onto their memories. “Holidays have not been the same,” said Lisa. “It’s a hole that cannot be filled. He was too good to be here.”
If you have any information on the unsolved murder of Tavares Bryant, please call Broward County Crime Stoppers at (954) 493-8477.
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