RIVIERA BEACH, Fla. (WFLA) – A Riviera Beach father is being remembered after he was shot and killed just weeks after being reunited with his missing 11-year-old daughter.
Earlier this month, Willis Williams, 49, sought answers after his daughter, Jaliyah Williams never returned home from school.
Williams told WPBF, that he’d search the ends of the world for her after he noticed she didn’t get off the bus when he went to pick her up. He said he became worried when he watched all the other kids get off the bus, but didn’t see his daughter.
The father called Jaliyah’s school in hopes that they’d have an answer, but was told she never made it to the classroom that morning.
“I’ll search to the ends of the earth for her. I don’t care where it is. I’ll go anywhere for her. I just want my daughter. That’s it,” Williams told the outlet.
“The crazy part is, I had this conversation with my daughter prior to me dropping her off,” Williams told WPBF. “I said, ‘Jaliyah, don’t be no fool for nobody. Don’t trust anybody.’ It was in my heart to say this to her; this was the morning that I dropped her off.”
After Williams told officials he believed an estranged family member took Jaliyah, the two were reunited nearly two weeks after she was last seen. But instead of rejoicing, the Williams family is dealing with grief after the 49-year-old father of five was gunned down on Jan. 21.
Although the Riviera Beach Police Department has yet to identify the victim, WPBF reported that Williams’ family identified that he was the one who was fatally shot.
According to police, the shooting occurred around 3:39 p.m. in the area of the 100 block of West 18th Street. When officers arrived on the scene, they located Williams suffering from gunshot wounds.
Williams was taken to St. Mary’s Medical Center where he later succumbed to his injuries. The local outlet stated that the police department has not released any suspect information at this time.
A vigil was held on Sunday, Jan. 22, in remembrance of the father and grandfather as his family members try to process what happened.
WPBF reported that dozens of people close to Williams attended the vigil that was held right next to where he was fatally shot the day before.
“It’s unfair what happened to him,” Preme Owens, Williams’ sister told the station. “It’s not fair to us. We lost a brother, a father, a grandfather, and friend. It’s just not fair.”
Among the people in attendance was Derrick McCray II, who drove with Williams to Georgia to help locate Jaliyah. She was found safe a few days later.
“Everybody was happy about the return of the little girl, of his daughter, and it was, ‘OK. She’s back. She’s safe. We know what’s happening,’ and everything so nobody would ever suspect he would have gotten killed a day after she returned,” Derrick McCray, Sr. told WPBF.
Williams’ family said he was a devoted father of five and grandfather to six children. He loved music, animals, and making others laugh.
Anyone with information on the shooting is urged to call Palm Beach County’s Crime Stoppers at 1-800-458-TIPS (8477) or the Riviera Beach Police Department at 561-845-4123.