GIFFORD — He was taken from his little ones over $40.
That’s the sentiment neighbors expressed when they reflected on the shooting death of 29-year-old Mertilian Leondrious Mesinor. On Dec. 19, a gunman sprayed several bullets striking Mesinor, who was pushing his toddler son in a stroller, reports show.
“It’s very tragic,” neighbor Judith Smith said. “My daughter knew him and told me he was a really good and devoted dad.”
Mesinor was flown to Lawnwood Regional Medical Center & Heart Institute in Fort Pierce. The father of three – two girls and one boy – later died from his injuries just six days before the Christmas holiday, sheriff’s officials said.
The shooting happened after an argument between suspected gunman Delray Antonio Montaque and Mesinor and his brother, reports show. The altercation was over $40, officials said.
“It’s absolutely very sad and ridiculous,” Indian River County sheriff’s spokesman Maj. Eric Flowers previously said.
On Dec. 19, Montaque, of the 3400 block of 44th Place, was charged with first-degree murder. Montaque was held Tuesday at the Indian River County Jail without bond.
Family, friends leave tributes to ‘Tilly’
Friends and family set up a memorial for Mesinor with roses, candles, flowers, balloons and teddy bears by a driveway near where the shooting occurred.
Smith, in her 50’s, said nobody in her family was home when shots rang out just several feet away. Smith said the tree-lined neighborhood is usually quiet.
Mesinor, who went by the nicknames ‘Tilly’ and ‘TillWill,’ played recreational basketball as a youth at Gifford Youth Achievement Center, said neighbor Johnny Smith. Johnny Smith, 59, who is the husband of Judith Smith, said he has officiated local sports games for 35 years.
Johnny Smith said Mesinor, one of the youth he would often interact with, was a “pretty good kid.” Several tributes poured in on Facebook, a social media platform, to remember the late father.
One video showed friends lighting candles at the memorial. Mesinor’s friend for more than 20 years, Kevontae Harris, can be heard in the clip saying, “from the sandbox, to grade school, from boys to men to fathers. I will forever miss you.”
Harris, 29, of Vero Beach, said Mesinor was like a brother to him. Harris said Mesinor was funny, humble, hardworking and had one of the most memorable laughs he has ever encountered.
“He was my ace, my partner,” Harris said.
Several people left comments on social media to Mesinor with hashtags saying ‘#Justice4Tilly’ and ‘#JusticeWillBeServed.’ Mesinor was added to a national gun violence memorial website, which showed pictures and profiles of those who were recently gunned down in America, including Florida.
Deputies responded to several reports of gunshots about 1 p.m. Dec. 19 in the 4300 block of 35th Avenue, just down the road from Living Hope Fellowship church. A witness said she heard the gunfire and saw a black truck head southbound on 35th Avenue, reports show.
The woman saw a man, identified as Mesinor, lying in a driveway across the street, authorities said. The woman grabbed her phone to call 911 when she saw the black truck head back down the street.
The truck driver, identified as Montaque, told the woman, “don’t do that,” reports show. The truck left the area again.
Neighbors carried away Mesinor’s son, who had been in his stroller in the middle of the street, just a few feet away from his father, reports show.
Deputies arrived and found Mesinor with several gunshot wounds, officials said. Mesinor was flown to a trauma center in Fort Pierce.
Deputies said Montaque drove back to the area. Montaque approached deputies with his hands up and said he was the one who shot Mesinor, reports show.
Montaque initially told investigators he shot Mesinor in self-defense. But, sheriff’s officials said surveillance footage and interviews with witnesses do not support that claim.
“Nothing leads us to believe this was a case of self-defense,” Flowers previously said. “(Mesinor) did not have anything on him that would have been interpreted as a weapon.”
Altercation over $40
Mesinor’s brother, who was walking with him at the time of the incident, told deputies he has known Montaque for at least eight years. The man said Montaque approached him earlier on Dec. 19 and demanded $20 because the man was “serving on his turf,” reports show.
‘Turf’ is a slang term referring to an area claimed by a person or group.
Less than an hour later, Montaque returned and demanded another $20. The man, who was alone at the time, said he gave Montaque the cash both times, reports show.
The man tried to get his money back, but Montaque refused, reports show. The man then got his brother Mesinor, who was friends with Montaque in the past, officials said.
The man wanted Mesinor to try and convince Montaque to return the $40, reports show.
The three then got into an argument. Montaque told the brothers, “you can take it out in blood,” reports show.
When the brothers noticed Montaque had a firearm, they walked southbound on 34th Court.
The brothers walked several blocks when they noticed Montaque sitting in his black truck nearby. Montaque put his hoodie over his head, got out of the vehicle and fired several shots toward Mesinor and his brother, reports show.
In a photo line up, Mesinor’s brother identified Montaque as the gunman.
Deputies found a 9 mm Smith & Wesson firearm in Montaque’s truck, reports show. Deputies also found shell casings in the roadway that matched the weapon.
Montaque was arrested and taken to the county jail. Montaque has an arraignment at 8:45 a.m. Feb. 7, 2020, court records show.
For family and friends, Mesinor’s legacy will not be forgotten.
“He was a good man and a great father,” Harris said.