Carl Wilson was a senior in high school, a linebacker on the football team and an all-around “good dude,” a teammate says.
But on Monday, Wilson was brutally murdered in Kennedale, Texas, gunned down on the street in front of a self-service car wash just three miles from school, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
Police say the shooting may have stemmed from an argument at lunch earlier that day.
“We were told by one of the witnesses that there was a confrontation at school between our victim and another student,” Chief Tommy Williams of the Kennedale Police Department tells PEOPLE.
Investigators do not believe that the student Wilson argued with was involved in the shooting. However, “we do think that something about that confrontation caused this group of people to want to [kill Wilson],” Williams says.
“I think the idea here is that there was an ongoing type of argument and that this incident at the school was just a catalyst,” Williams adds. “It would be hard for me as a reasonable person to understand how a single incident like that could lead to someone being shot and killed. I have to believe there’s something else there.”
What makes the story even more painful is the fact Wilson, 18, was a single father, living alone in a small Arlington apartment with his 1-year-old son known as Junior.
“He walked away from the argument at school,” Wilson’s guardian Lisa Tennison told the Star-Telegram on Tuesday. “He just cared about his son and graduating. He didn’t care about drama.”
But the drama followed him anyway, and the football player was tragically shot in the head in broad daylight on Monday afternoon, shocking the close-knit community.
Making a Better Life
“Carl’s a good dude,” teammate Bryce Bailey told WFAA. “He was always there to encourage you, always had a smile on his face. He was never negative, always wanted to bring you up.”
“He was really trying to do the right thing,” Williams adds. “He really was trying to make a better life for himself.
“It just touches a nerve because you’ve got a young man who’s overcome a lot of obstacles in his life to do better for himself and his family,” the chief says. “Every murder is senseless, but sometimes you have offenses like this that seem even more senseless. He had his whole life in front of him.”
After receiving an anonymous tip, cops seized a black Lincoln believed to have left the scene of the shooting.
“Investigators have a tentative identification of the driver, who has not been located,” Williams said in a statement on Tuesday. “The driver is believed to have ties to an Arlington gang. There is no indication that the victim had any gang ties.”
Williams tells PEOPLE: “I don’t know what we’re going to find in it.”
According to reports, there were multiple eyewitnesses to the shooting, but a suspect has not been named yet.
“We’re still combing through a lot of the tips that we’ve received,” says Williams. “A lot of folks have given us information, but you have to sort through the fact and fiction of it.”
A Complicated Investigation
The potential involvement of a gang makes the murder investigation more difficult.
“These people don’t talk to police as a rule,” Williams says.
The chief admits that this case is an especially tricky one.
“I’ve been in law enforcement for almost 37 years,” he says, “and this is one of about three cases I can remember being involved in that was this complex. It’s just really difficult to get through everything and find out what happened and who did this.”
But that doesn’t mean he thinks it will go unsolved.
“It’s going to take us a while,” he says, “but I feel confident that we’re going to identify someone.”
While the police seek justice for Wilson, students, many wearing black, gathered for a vigil in his honor at the memorial garden at James Martin High School on Tuesday evening.
“The one thing he stressed was that he wanted to go to college and make something for his son,” cheerleader Jireh Davis, who helped organize the vigil, told the Star-Telegram.
The family has started a GoFundMe page to pay for Wilson’s funeral.
As for baby Junior? Williams assures PEOPLE he’s “being well cared for.”