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I-Team: Cold Case Leaves Brother Looking for Answers | News

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I-Team: Cold Case Leaves Brother Looking for Answers
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A $20 bag of marijuana led to the murder of a 19-year old Las Vegas man four years ago. Detectives working this cold case are hoping for new tidbits of information that might lead to an arrest.

From everything the 8 News Now I-Team has learned, Derek Coleman was a good guy, not a criminal type at all, but he made a bad decision back in July 2005 when he agreed to help a stranger score a bag of weed. Police think that stranger is still here, on the streets of Las Vegas and if he murdered Coleman for something like this, chances are he might kill again.

"A senseless murder of a good kid, a father, a son, a brother, you know, my best friend," said James Coleman, who talks about his brother and best friend. Coleman was a gregarious 19-year-old who loved basketball, spending time with his family, and his girlfriend Tabitha.

Whatever future he had ended on the night of July 17th 2005 outside of a gift shop near Circus Circus. Coleman was shot in the back by a man who'd been sitting in the rear seat of Coleman's car. At the time, Metro didn't have much to go on.

"It doesn't appear random, suspect may have been in the back seat, but it appears they met and for reasons I can't explain he was shot," said Sgt. Rocky Alba, Metro police.

But a subsequent investigation has filled in some of the blanks. Although Derek Coleman was, according to his family, a good kid, he made a bad decision that led to his death. On the afternoon of the shooting, Derek and Tabitha were in a convenience store near the Stratosphere.

"They were approached by an individual over there. Derek was asked if he could go purchase some marijuana for this guy. So, Derek got a phone number and they went on their way," said Jim Buczek, Metro Homicide Dept.

Detectives don't believe Derek was a drug dealer. They think he made a spur of the moment decision to make a quick $20. He traveled to a downtown hotel, they say, bought a small bag of pot from someone inside, then phoned his buyer. They met at 10:30 pm in front of the Fantasia Novelty store.

"He got in the car with my brother and he pulled out the gun. He was trying to rob my brother. You know, and my brother said, 'take, take whatever I have man, just take it,' and he still shot him," said Coleman.

Police say the shooter, who did not know Coleman, reportedly exited the car and walked away from the scene. There were plenty of people around, but most were typically distracted by neon and other attractions. Descriptions of the killer were very general. The girlfriend Tabitha had been in the front seat but couldn't provide many details.

"Apparently they had a conversation about the quality of the marijuana and as Derek got out of the car to flee the scene, the suspect fired one round through the seat and struck Derek in the back and was fatally wounded," Buczek said.  

"She was just screaming and she remembered him holding a gun to her head," Coleman said.

"After he shoots the victim he tells the girl you better not say anything to anyone or we will come back to get you," Buczek said.

Coleman's is one of 2,200 cold case murder files. It's back on the front burner mainly because of chance when James Coleman met homicide Lt. Lew Roberts at a sporting event. Detectives are not immune to stories about families that continue to suffer.

"Somebody has got to know something. Somebody heard something. They talked about it. People talk, man, especially kids, cause they think stuff like that is cool," Coleman said, adding that the family hurts everyday. "You know how they say time heals all wounds, it doesn't feel like it."

The suspect was described at the time of the murder as 5'9 to 5'11, 170 to 180 pounds, and was bald. At the time he was wearing white basketball shorts and a white muscle short. If you were a witness at the scene or if you've heard anything about who might be responsible, we urge you to call Metro Homicide, or call the I-Team.

 

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