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Some say Shay Baby could have put Gainesville on the rap world’s radar.
After his release from prison in January 2016, Rashey “Shay Baby” Garrison, 29, told his family he saw music as an escape from the streets and drug dealing in East Gainesville.
A few weeks later, he was outside a friend’s house in the Lincoln Estates neighborhood – shirtless with sagging short pants, long gold chains around his neck and a gold grill in his mouth – lip-syncing his new song “Cold Outchea” for a music video.
For more than six minutes, Garrison, a father of four, raps about murders, robberies, sexual assault, fake friends and snitching. The first verse doesn’t hold back: “See a brother whack his own brother, mama drown her newborn and daddy rape his own daughter.”
The chorus: “Cold outchea. Dirty world that we live in.”
Throughout the professionally produced video, Garrison sifts through stacks of cash, as he leans against a car and stands outside a house with friends standing around him or sitting on a porch.
Two days after the video was published on YouTube, on May 2, 2016, Garrison was killed in a drive-by shooting. Police said it was over the video, which reached 300,000 views this month.
Gainesville police said a childhood friend, Ishmael Daniels, fired 10 rounds from a high-powered rifle into Garrison’s car, because he was upset about something said in the video.
Daniels’ defense attorney insists he is wrongfully accused of first-degree murder and related charges. He has remained since 2016 in the Alachua County Jail on $1.5 million bail.
The Circuit Court judge and attorneys in the case tentatively agreed this week that his trial would begin May 6 — a little more than three years after the shooting.
Asked why anyone would kill her brother, Jancey Sheppard didn’t hesitate: “Jealousy. Envy.”
Garrison’s death hit his community hard. A video tribute with images from his life and funeral appeared on YouTube 19 days later and has more than 17,000 views.
The Upper Room Church of God in Christ could not hold all of the hundreds of people who attended his homegoing service, said his sisters, Jancey Sheppard, 33, and Loretta Green, 28.
His family disagrees with what police said was Daniels’ motive. Asked why anyone would kill her brother, Sheppard didn’t hesitate: “Jealousy. Envy.”
Garrison’s story also reflects a recent string of rap artists killed nationally. In 2016 alone, a rapper was shot during a Los Angeles pool party. One in Chicago was killed while filming a music video. Another one, age 17, died from a stray bullet fired during a robbery in Brooklyn.
‘It was just a song’
The “Cold Outchea” video was filmed and directed in two days by Lee Strong, aka 2piece, a Gainesville-born rapper and producer now living in Seattle. The song tells of everyday people from the hood, Strong said. The second verse rattles off the names and nicknames of real people and rumors about their lives. To Garrison and Strong, however, it was just a song.
“He wanted to rap about it,” Strong said of Garrison. “He didn’t have anything else going for him at the time, as far as any job or anything, so music was the only thing he had.”
Strong added: “It probably told a lot of things about people that people didn’t know about, but it also gave an opportunity for a voice. It was his voice.”
Garrison and Daniels have criminal histories dating back to 2006.
Court records show Daniels’ rap sheet ranges from charges of reckless driving to domestic battery by strangulation to cocaine possession.
Garrison was released from a two-year prison sentence on Jan. 10, 2016, for obstructing a criminal investigation, cocaine possession, eluding law enforcement and failure to appear in court, according to the Florida Department of Corrections. His list of prior charges included robbery with a firearm, cocaine possession with intention to sell and aggravated battery.
“Shay Baby” is listed as an alias on his court records.
His family remembers him as someone with a good heart. He was 13 when Sheppard gave birth to her daughter at 16. She struggled to get the baby to sleep, but Garrison would come home after school, scoop his fussing niece in his arms and walk around the house rapping a lullaby.
His mother, Twila Garrison, 54, acknowledged that he got into trouble as a teenager.
“But he was a good boy,” she said. “Mannerable boy, respectable. Good to his mama, good to his sisters and brothers.”
After leaving prison, Garrison visited his mother in a hospital following her knee surgery. He rolled her in a wheelchair to the cafeteria. He kept her company. They talked about life.
One day at age 14, as they were grocery shopping, he pulled his mother aside to tell her something. “Mama, I had a dream that I was in a casket,” she recalled him saying.
Fifteen years later, he told her something similar during a phone call.
“Mama, I’m going to die before you,” he said.
“No, you’re not, Rashey. You’re going to put me away first.”
Twila Garrison, whose health has deteriorated since she lost her son, said “Cold Outchea” also tackles failed relationships and betrayal. Those lyrics took on new meaning after his death.
“People ain’t who you think they is,” she said. “And everybody tell you they love you, they don’t. Everybody tell you, you they homeboy. They phony. Fake.”
Green said Garrison wanted a record deal in Atlanta. He was ready to leave the streets and be a better man for his children. She had faith in him. He spoke the truth in his lyrics, she said.
“You have to speak the truth in order to make a difference,” Green said, “and that’s exactly what he did.”
‘The livest night in Gainesville’
Kingsley King, 41, a local photographer and videographer, walked into Rain Nightclub & Lounge in downtown Gainesville on May 1, 2016, with his camera ready to take promotional footage. It was “the livest night in Gainesville,” he said.
Shay Baby was the man of the hour.
With Garrison was Jasmine Moring, 27, his girlfriend and mother of his youngest daughter, 4-year-old Ra’Nya. The club DJ played “Cold Outchea.” The crowd loved it. Everyone was there to relax and listen to music, King said. Moring agreed: “It was just a regular night at the club.”
Afterward, Moring went home, while Garrison stayed out with friends. At about 3:45 a.m., Garrison was driving down the 1100 block of NE 25th Street, in the Duval Heights neighborhood, with a man named Darrell Butler sitting in the passenger seat.
What happened next has the prosecution and defense at odds.
When Garrison stopped his car, a Nissan Altima came alongside him, according to a Gainesville Police Department report. Daniels was driving the Altima, but he reached across a man sitting in the passenger’s seat and fired a rifle into the driver’s side of Garrison’s car, according to the report. As Daniels drove away, he told the man in his car that Garrison’s music video had offended him, police said.
Having been hit by just one bullet, Butler escaped from the car and saw the Altima drive away, according to the report. He told police it appeared to be a rental car because of a decal.
Daniels’ defense attorney, Thomas Edwards, said the man who police said was seated beside Daniels in the Altima is now a cooperating witness for the prosecution.
According to another arrest report, Daniels drove from the shooting to a wooded area in Alachua County to hide the gun. He and the cooperating witness later drove to a nearby gas station, the report said, to buy bleach in hopes of getting rid of evidence like gunpowder residue, DNA and fingerprints. Hours later, Daniels and the witness met Daniel Winter at another location, the report said. The witness told police the three men cleaned the car with bleach together.
Winter said he and Daniels drove to Orlando in the Altima while the witness drove there in another car, according to police. They exchanged the Altima for another rental car, police said.
Daniels smelled like bleach when arrested in Duval Heights late that night, less than 20 hours after the shooting, according to police records.
Winter was charged with acting as an accessory to murder after the fact and tampering with evidence. In October, he pleaded no contest to the latter charge and was sentenced to 250 days in jail, but time served, and also 12 months probation, court records show.
‘A lot of competing interests in this case’
Police reported that Daniels told them after his arrest that he was in the car with the cooperating witness at the time of the shooting. However, Edwards said, Daniels was never in the car.
“My client is presumed innocent and is innocent,” the attorney said. “There’s a lot of competing interests in this case.”
Prosecutors declined to answer specific questions about Daniels’ case in advance of his trial.
Edwards said a court deposition by Butler, the man who was in Garrison’s car, could help his client. Butler described who he saw firing the gun. It wasn’t Daniels, Edwards said. The shooter’s description matches that of the cooperating witness, the attorney said.
Garrison and Daniels were longtime friends and had no animosity toward each other, Edwards said. They both were at a party in a park a week before the shooting, he said.
“He had many enemies, but Ishmael Daniels was not one of them.” -Thomas Edwards, Ishmael Daniels’ defense attorney
“He had many enemies,” Edwards said of Garrison, “but Ishmael Daniels was not one of them.”
Garrison’s mother and sisters recalled the two men being childhood friends. However, they insisted that Garrison and Daniels had grown apart and stopped talking years ago.
Court records show that the state’s evidence includes surveillance footage from multiple nearby convenience stores, a “gang intelligence report” on Garrison and the lyrics to “Cold Outchea.” Another court record states Daniels told another inmate that Garrison “had it coming.”
Edwards said Daniels remains falsely blamed for Garrison’s death.
On Christmas Eve in the county jail, Daniels allegedly punched another inmate three times and then a detention officer several times. It took several other officers to restrain him, according to an arrest report. According to the report, Daniels, who was charged with battery on a correctional officer, “yelled several times at the detention officers, ‘Kill me – just kill me.”
Edwards said his client was not in his normal state of mind that day, and that the incident is unrelated to the murder trial.
A series of rap-related shootings
Garrison’s is among dozens of rap-related shootings documented in news stories over the past few years.
Strong, Garrison’s video producer, was in Atlanta weeks before “Cold Outchea” was filmed, set to work with another rapper, Bankroll Fresh, until that man was killed outside a recording studio there. It was the fifth incident involving rappers and studios in that area within a two-year period.
“All he needed was a couple more videos, couple more songs. He would have put Gainesville on the map.” -Producer Lee Strong
South Florida has also had its share of rap-related shootings. Last June, rapper Jahseh “XXXTentacion” Onfroy, 20, who worked with Kanye West, was robbed and killed outside of a Broward County motorcycle shop. In October, two aspiring Treasure Coast rappers died at a Miramar hospital after arriving there in a bullet-riddled Jeep. Jamell “YNW Melly” Demons, 19, surrendered to police in February and has pleaded not guilty in that case.
Jealousy is a part of any local rap scene, especially when a rapper becomes successful, Strong said. It doesn’t always escalate to violence, but when it does, he said, the rap culture loses.
Strong was in his recording studio when he learned of Garrison’s death. His phone buzzed with texts. “RIP Shay Baby,” Facebook posts read. He didn’t believe it until he saw it on Moring’s page. In the days after, the “Cold Outchea” video gained thousands of YouTube views.
Without a doubt, Strong added, Garrison had a future beyond his city.
“All he needed was a couple more videos, couple more songs,” he said. “He would have put Gainesville on the map.”
Update: Little more than a month after publication of this story, Daniels pleaded no contest in Garrison’s killing and avoided trial. He will serve 34 years in prison.