Saturday, November 20, 2010

Birmingham police make arrest in Wednesday night shooting death of college student

Published: Saturday, November 20, 2010, 12:00 AM ??? Updated: Saturday, November 20, 2010, 12:27 AM

Family members of a Pleasant Grove man slain this week in a Birmingham park said they are in shock, and have more questions than answers surrounding the ordeal.

Clifford Whitely, 21, was found face down Wednesday night at East Brownsville Park at Felix Avenue S.W. and Spaulding Street.

Late Friday night, Birmingham police announced the arrest of Tommy Williams of Birmingham, 21, for capital murder in Whitely's death.

Five others were arrested with Williams on other charges, including Shaunasty Lowe, 21, who was acquitted Sept. 20 of a quadruple murder. Lowe was charged with unlawful possession of marijuana and was also in possession of a stolen handgun, police said. The six were arrested in the 700 block of New Hill Circle in Birmingham on Friday night. Only Williams was charged in the murder.

Police did not release any information on a motive.

A 2007 graduate of Pleasant Grove High School, Whitely was shot multiple times Wednesday night.

"The family has a lot of unanswered questions, like why he was there," said Bessemer Mayor Kenneth Gulley, the victim's uncle. "The details are sketchy and we're trying to figure it out and wait on those answers."

The car Whitely had been driving was taken after he was shot, family members said. It was found a short time later on Carol Street and Wenonah Road.

"It's just a very, very trying time," Gulley said Friday.

"We look at all of our kids and lump them together, but he was a very good kid," Gulley said. "He had lived a very privileged life."

Whitely was a defensive back at Pleasant Grove High School and then went to Jacksonville State University, where he was a biology major and also played football.

He left JSU and transferred to Lawson State Community College.

"He was a standout player, and he made good grades," Gulley said.

Though Whitely was Gulley's nephew by marriage, he had known him all of his life.

"I've known him since he was born, and I gave him his first job when I worked at Lawson State," the mayor said. "He was a very quiet, mild-mannered person. Very kind-hearted."

"There were moments he could be a typical 21-year-old, but he was genuinely a good kid."

In addition to school, Whitely worked part-time and had an eight-month-old son. He lived at home with his parents, and had attended classes on the evening he was killed.

"We've never lost a family member to violence," Gulley said. "It's one of those horror stories that you feel like can never happen to you."

Besides Lowe, others arrested with Williams on Friday night were Corinthia Lowe, 27, possession of marijuana and possession of a controlled substance; Tyree Hines, 19, illegally possessing two handguns and a controlled substance; and Grady Jenkins, 44, disorderly conduct. Also, a juvenile suspect was arrested and charged with possession of marijuana.

A jury in September found Shaunasty Lowe not guilty in the murders of Derrick Witherspoon, Elizabeth Witherspoon and her sons, Justin and Jerome McFarland, in July 2008. All four were shot in the head, and their house was burned with their bodies inside.

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