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Palm Coast Sunday, Jul. 14, 2019 1 year ago

Deputies arrest 16-year-old suspect in shooting death of Elijah Rizvan, 17

The suspect arranged a drug deal with Rizvan and then shot him at their arranged meeting place, according to the FCSO.
by: Jonathan Simmons News Editor

Flagler County Sheriff's Office deputies have arrested a 16-year-old suspect in connection with the July 12 shooting death of 17-year-old Elijah Rizvan in Palm Coast's W-Section. The suspect is being charged with first-degree murder.

Detectives believe the shooting occurred in the course of a drug deal arranged over Snapchat.

"We believe this was a planned and deliberate murder," Sheriff Rick Staly said in a news conference July 14. "This is the second young man murdered in Palm Coast this year. Parents, get involved with your children's life. Know what they're doing on Snapchat. Know what they're doing on all the social media they are using."

A dozen detectives had worked around the clock since July 12 to solve the crime, Staly said.

The shooting happened outside near 7 Westford Lane. Deputies responding to an 8:26 p.m. 911 call about a shooting found Rizvan at 8:27 p.m. laying in the road, shot in the chest.

A single .380-caliber shell cashing was found near his body, and at 8:37 p.m., Rizvan was pronounced dead, Staly said.

"Kids and adults living their lives in the drug world are setting themselves up for dangerous situations. This incident started with the attempt to sell marijuana — a felony amount, by the way — and now a 17-year-old is dead and a 16-year-old is likely to spend the rest of his life, or a significant part of his life, in jail. I'm hoping that the state attorney will charge him as an adult."

— RICK STALY, Flagler County sheriff

A witness told deputies that Rizvan had sent up a drug deal over Snapchat to sell marijuana.

"What the victim did not know was that they had actually planned to rob him, and not buy the drugs," Staly said. "The witness also told deputies that a silver or gray sedan pulled up to the residence and two black males exited the vehicle, grabbed his arms and one of them shot him in the chest. The males then got back in the car and sped off."

The initial communication about the drug deal was between the 16-year-old suspect and a third party known to Rizvan, who then contacted Rizvan and told Rizvan that the 16-year-old wanted to buy drugs. 

Deputies found multiple baggies of drugs in Rizvan's pocket. 

"He'd been trying to sell it for $120," Staly said. "So he lost his life over a bag of weed, when he was hoping for 120 bucks."

Rizvan's girlfriend later told deputies that, after he'd been shot, Rizvan had asked her to get the drugs out of his pockets and hide them. She tried, but didn't get all of them, and deputies later also found what she'd hidden.

Deputies used Snapchat names to find a potential witness who lived in Island Estates. When they got to the home, there was a silver Kia Forte and a gray Ford Focus in the driveway. 

"Video surveillance from the area, of privately owned surveillance systems ... shows a vehicle matching the Ford Focus in the area just two minutes before the murder and then speeding away," Staly said.

Three witnesses also independently told detectives that they were with the suspect  — a 16-year-old they identified to deputies by name — during the shooting. 

One said he'd gotten out of the car with the suspect and had seen him grab Rizvan, demand drugs, then shoot him, according to an arrest affidavit. 

The witnesses also said that they'd let the suspect out of the car in the Tidelands area in Palm Coast, where deputies determined he lived.

Reviewing License Plate Reader cameras and surveillance cameras, deputies found that the car was heading west on Palm Coast Parkway at 7:09 p.m., was seen arriving at Cue Note Billiard Room at 7:15 p.m. and departing one hour later — "during that time, this drug ripoff and deal was made," Staly said — and was seen at the scene of the shooting at 8:24 p.m. It was seen seen traveling east on Palm Coast Parkway at 8:32 p.m.

"In less than 15 hours, we had all persons involved identified," Staly said.

They made contact with the 16-year-old suspect at 5:20 p.m. July 13, and brought him to the county courthouse with his mother and stepfather, Staly said. 

When detectives interviewed the suspect, he admitted that he was in the car with the three witnesses, but then refused to answer further questions, invoking his right to an attorney.

"Detectives worked with State Attorney's Office to get an arrest warrant for first-degree murder, based on the evidence gathered during the investigation and the fact that a death occurred while committing a felony," Staly said. In Florida, people involved in the commission of a felony that leads to a death can be charged with murder. 

Deputies arrested the suspect at 3:48 a.m. July 14 at the courthouse, and took him to the county jail for processing. He has since been transferred to juvenile detention in Daytona Beach. 

Deputies also got a search warrant for the suspect's home, and found the T-shirt, hoodie and jeans they believe the suspect was wearing during the shooting.

Additional arrests and charges are likely, Staly said. 

"What's interesting about this case is this crime started with the use of use of technology — Snapchat," Staly said. "And it was solved with use of technology — from LPRs to private citizens' ... security cameras around their house."

Witnesses initially told most of the truth, Staly said, and then tried to lie about the actually shooting. 

"What helped us break them was a citizen who provided us his Ring door camera video, because it disproved what the witnesses had previously told us," Staly said. "And once they saw the evidence then they finished filling in the story on what our evidence had pointed us to."

The victim has been previously known to deputies because he ran away twice in 2018, and had at one point been confined under a Baker Act — the state law that allows deputies to take someone for inpatient mental health evaluation if they're believed to be a danger to themselves or others. There had also been a domestic violence incident at the house, but there had been conflicting stories about what happened, and no arrests were made, Staly said. 

"Unfortunately, this is probably a young man who'd had a troubled life," Staly said.

Deputies had no previous contact with the suspect, Staly said. 

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