18-year-old Stef’An Strawder was one of two fatal victims in a mass shooting outside Club Blu in Fort Myers early Monday morning. The other fatal shooting victim was 14-year-old Sean Archilles.
Strawder was about to begin his senior year at Lehigh Senior High School and had aspired to play Division I college basketball. Owner of the Broadway Palm Dinner Theatre in Fort Myers and former Lee County Democratic Party Chair Will Prather said his son TJ played on the same traveling basketball team with Strawder for the past three years. Prather spent five days with the team competing in Las Vegas last week. He says his son’s teammate would sometimes stay at the Prather home.
“The little bit of irony is if maybe Stefan would had stayed with the team there might have been a chance that he...he wanted some of the other players to go,” said Prather. “And they decided not to go and he was even supposed to come over at some point and say hello because it’s only a mile and a half from my house.”
Prather says one of his favorite things about Strawder was his distinctive laugh.
“You would hear his laugh across the room where ever it was. So he had this really kind of just nutty laugh. It was high pitched and it was fast and it was just a great sense of humor.”
Prather said he hopes Monday’s shootings spark a broad community-wide conversation addressing gun violence and creating safe spaces for youth in Southwest Florida. “I’m concerned as a community leader, as a business man, as a parent, as a president of a booster club at my high school,” said Prather.
“There’s been a couple close ones where I’ve gotten worried about things but this hits home. This is going to be tough. He was very entrenched in the basketball community. He was a rising student athlete who was trying to do better in life and get out of Fort Myers. And he didn’t get that opportunity. That was unfortunately taken from him.”
The Quality Life Center in Dunbar is planning a candlelight vigil for victims of the shooting Thursday at 6:30 p.m. at 210 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd.